Monday, September 3, 2007


In my last blog I talked about the joy of flying. It is indeed a joy to leave the ground and soar into the sky. I know that I’m no closer to God there than I am on the ground, but there is something refreshing and renewing about climbing above the dust and dirt. It can be the hottest day in summer, but when you climb to about 6,000 or 7,000 feet, it’s always cool up there.

You might remember after the Challenge Space Shuttle exploded, President Ronald Reagan paid tribute to the Challenger Astronauts by saying, "We shall never forget them nor the last time we saw them, as they prepared for their mission and waved good-bye and slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God." He was actually quoting a portion of a poem written in 1941 by an American pilot named John Gillespie Magee, Jr. During the days of the Battle of Britain, many American pilots crossed into Canada to enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force so they could fly against the Nazis before America had entered the war. As an 18 year old pilot, John Gillespie joined these brave pilots and soon found himself flying in England.

After pilot training, John flew for the RCAF out of Digby, England. He was soon qualified to fly the Supermarine Spitfire. On 3 September 1941, Magee flew a high altitude (30,000 feet) test flight in a newer model of the Spitfire V. As he orbited and climbed upward, he was struck with the inspiration of a poem — "To touch the face of God." Once back on the ground, he wrote a letter to his parents. In it he commented, "I am enclosing a verse I wrote the other day. It started at 30,000 feet, and was finished soon after I landed." On the back of the letter, he jotted down his poem, 'High Flight'.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Just three months later, on 11 December 1941 (and only three days after the US entered the war), Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., was killed. The Spitfire V he was flying collided with an Oxford Trainer from Cranwell Airfield. John Gillespie Magee, Jr. was 19 years old.

It’s a beautiful poem, and any pilot who reads those words will smile and immediatley connect with the unmatched feeling of soaring into the sky. I’ve experienced it many times myself. But I’ve never even thought I came to touching God’s face. I’ve just been amazed at the beauty and the enormity of God’s marevelous creation.

I believe one day I will touch the face of God when I stand in the presence of Jesus. Those who saw the face of Jesus saw the face of God, and those who touched His face, literally touched the face of God. As the words of my favorite Christmas song say, "Mary, did you know ... when you kissed the face of Jesus, you have kissed the face of God?" (words by Mark Lowery).

By faith, we can experience the glory of God’s face in our hearts. God’s Word says, “For God who said, ‘let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2Cor 4:6) So open your eyes of faith, and turn your eyes on Jesus, and you will see the face of God. Reach out with your arms of faith and you can touch the face of God – and you don’t need an airplane for that!