The flight was uneventful. I had flown into Salt Lake City many times over the last twenty-five years, and I had taken this flight with Amy and the kids before. Everything seemed to be going according to plan as we made our descent, and I expected we would be on the ground in a matter of minutes.
But at about 2000 feet (as best I could judge), I noticed that our approach was slightly out-of-the-ordinary. Normally, as the plane descended, I would anticipate the pilot occasionally adjusting the plane’s speed, and there may be a few cycles of the engines roaring a little louder and then quieting back down. Nothing to worry about. This was typical.
On this approach, however, the engines’ cycles were far more frequent. The pilot would accelerate for a moment, then slow down; gun the engines, then back off. This went on for about two minutes until I realized this was nothing like I had experienced before. The turbulence also seemed to be more extreme, and the plane seemed to be rotating slightly left to right and moving up and down.
Meanwhile, Easton seemed nonplussed, and Eliana was having the time of her life, yelling “wee” as though she were on a roller-coaster. Colton was scared. Amy was clearly concerned, and so was I.
All of a sudden our nose tipped upwards and the engines thundered again. We were no longer making our approach; we were climbing. Immediately after we began our ascent, the pilot quickly and almost inaudibly spoke into the intercom: there was a wind shear wind warning near the airport and we had to abort our landing.
We continued climbing for another few minutes while making a wide turn back to the airport. The captain then told us that the control tower was going to assign us another vector so we could find a safer way onto the ground.
Happily, we finally landed in Salt Lake City and eventually made our way to San Jose on our connecting flight, despite Colton’s request that we rent a car and drive home. Other than this minor incident, we enjoyed our trip to Montana very much.
During the four or five minutes of this unusual descent, I was genuinely worried. I’ve been on lots of flights in my life and even experienced a fair amount of turbulence, but I’ve never been through a landing approach like this. When I began to notice that this was no typical landing pattern, I began to pray, asking the Lord not only to give us a safe landing but also preparing my soul to meet Jesus.
I also leaned over to Colton and told him, “You have to put your faith in the Lord. Put your faith in Jesus to save you. He is all that matters. This is why we have to be ready to die. This is why we need to be right with God.” Some might think this an odd way to counsel a child who is genuinely afraid of his present circumstances; I beg to differ.
Situations like these have the powerful effect of opening our eyes to what really matters. We taste of our mortality, we are brought for a brief moment to consider our impending death and the reality of eternity, and we can see with greater clarity that knowing Jesus Christ is all that matters in life and in death.
It is my prayer that this brief experience will have a deep and lasting impression on my soul and the souls of my children. It is easy, once we are on safe ground, to forget what we learned in our encounter with danger. But God would have us remember these lessons so that we might number our days and cultivate a life of wisdom (Ps 90:12). Death is near for all of us. Let us, by God’s grace, make sure we are ready to embrace it when our time comes and help those who are not yet convinced that Jesus is all that matters.