I don’t fly very often, but this past year I have had the privilege of taking a couple of fantastic trips. Last month I was in Bermuda, visiting the Presbyterian Church there (the congregation in Bermuda is officially a congregation within the Presbyterian Church in Canada).
Perhaps strangely, one of my most vivid memories of this trip was on the airplane as we prepared for take off. The crew began their usual safety drill explanation beginning with seat-belt fastening tips and ending with instructions on the use of oxygen masks and how to exit the plane. At one point during the flight attendant’s presentation I looked around and observed that I was the only one paying attention! I suspect that my observation of indifference is not unique. The veteran travelers reading this post have likely seen this many times before. Clearly the flight attendants were used to the indifference, and this translated into an apathetic presentation of their safety drill.
But let’s think this through. The drill is largely about what we should do in anticipation of an emergency landing! (I want to say ‘crash’, but my pilot friends would be quick to correct me). This is serious stuff. Fastening a life jacket, applying an oxygen mask, finding the emergency exit……this could be the difference between living and dying.
The reason I was particularly attentive on this occasion is because it occurred to me that I had never paid close attention to the safety drill before. When I was traveling by plane as a child I assumed my parents would know what to do, and that would be enough to keep me safe. As a young adult, who flew only periodically, I had fallen into the trap of following the masses in ignoring this standard presentation. So this time I was going to listen up. If something were to go awry during the flight, I would be prepared.
Now, I sort of get the apathy on this. For some, they’ve heard the drill so many times, they just tune it out. Others have done the math. They recognize that the odds of something going awry during the flight are minuscule, and so they tune out the presentation expecting to never be in need of the information being imparted by the flight attendants.
I think the reason I’m so empathetic to the flight attendants on this is because, every week, I deliver a message that has eternal implications. Each Sunday, I articulate from Scripture a kind of safety drill, pointing those gathered towards the one thing that can save them: a relationship with Jesus Christ. And, I often wonder, ‘How many are listening?’
Has the message become so familiar that some have begun to tune it out? Has the message become so familiar that some have chosen to stay at home? … go shopping? … go golfing? … do the gardening? … go to Tim Horton’s?
I confessed some understanding of why we might ignore the airline safety drill. The odds are in our favour; there is a 99.9% chance we’ll never need to apply that information. But what about the ‘safety drill’ outlined in Scripture? Last time I checked, the death rate was exactly the same: one per person.
There will come a day when each of us will come before the Lord to given an account for our life (Revelation 22:12). I’m not talking here about coming out on the right side of the ledger. Clinging to the hope that our ‘good deeds’ will outnumber our ‘bad’ isn’t going to work (see Ephesians 2:8). At the end of the day (quite literally!), what will matter most is whether we have been listening along the way.
There’s a passage in the Bible, from the Gospel of John, where Jesus uses the metaphor of a shepherd to describe Himself. He then goes on to say, “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:27, 28).
Listening once to an airline safety drill might be enough. Listening once to the message of Jesus is not. Jesus calls us to be in a relationship with Him. Like sheep following a shepherd, we need to be ever-attentive to the direction we’re given. We need to listen for the voice of Jesus everyday. As we pick up our Bibles and read, and as we give our attention to the exposition of Scripture, we have the opportunity to hear the voice of our Good Shepherd.
But this begs the question: Is anybody listening?