It began when with the amazement only an 8-year-old boy can muster as he looked intently up to the sky. He saw it before he could hear it. A black speck in the distance growing larger with each moment. He started running. He needed to get the best view. He scrambled up a small dirt hill on the construction site behind his house. Reaching the top of the hill he could see over the rooftops and trees of his yard, the clear sky a backdrop for a spectacle beyond anything his young imagination could ponder. And he waited. As the dot on the horizon grew, so did his wonder.
Another dot appeared, the opposite end of the sky from the first. Moments later, proximity shortened, the dots took shape, revealing the aerodynamic marvel of F-16 fighters.
Speed. Noise. Power. Time seemed to stop as the boy took in the sight.
As the jets neared, the boy gasped. It looked like a sure collision. Yet in that same moment both jets banked upwards, flying parallel in perfect formation, curving through the sky like nothing he had ever seen.
The jets now coming right towards him, the boy instinctively ducked for cover behind a large rock. Peeking around the edge of the stone, filled with both fear and curiosity, he almost missed the jets as they screamed overhead. A deafening roar followed close behind, shaking ground and eardrum. The rumbling engulfed the boy. He remained huddled by the rock, paralyzed by the whole experience.
And then it was over - the jets gone faster than they had appeared.
[This story has two possible endings]
#1. The boy scrambled back down the hill to his home. He needed to catch his breath. In the shade of his treed backyard, the boy calmed down, reflecting on his close encounter. He heard rumbles in the distance, signalling the jets weren’t finished. Looking up in anticipation, he waited for the next encounter. Such is the marvel of the modern North American airshow.
#2. The boy scrambled back down the hill to his home. He needed to catch his breath. In the shade of his treed backyard, the boy calmed down, reflecting on his close encounter. He heard rumbles in the distance, signalling the jets weren’t finished. Looking up in anticipation, he waited for the next encounter. Such is the terror of the modern Middle Eastern air raid.
I wrote this story from my own experience growing up a few kilometers from the Abbotsford International Airshow, which is taking place this weekend. I can still remember my childhood awe and wonder of this summer tradition - my eyes glued to the sky for an entire weekend. My ears ringing for days. The annual airshow was a thing to behold. It still is.
Yet I can’t help but feel a tension as our community celebrates the technological innovations of aerospace. My words from awhile back express well what I feel:
As I grew up, however, my airshow appreciation waned, particularly as I became aware of the history of violence and what the evolution of the airplane has done for modern warfare. To be sure, I still marvel at the sights and sounds of an F-18 screaming through the sky. The airshow remains an amazing spectacle. But I'm hesitant to celebrate it. I’m no longer an innocent child in awe. I live in a globally connected world where I know that one jet’s show in Abbotsford is paralleled by another jet’s reality in war-torn regions of our globe.
This is the tension I sit with as the roar of jets mingle with the roar of violence.
I’m not naive enough to think I can resolve this tension. Sure, I pray for peace. I work for peace. I long for peace. But my very presence in North America makes me complicit in global violence to some degree. And yes, I still marvel as jets loop overhead. Rather than be crippled with guilt or mired in ignorance, however, I think there is value in living with and acknowledging this tension.
In the Bible, God’s love and light doesn’t come only when sin and darkness are gone. No, love and light come into the very midst of the world’s darkness. Before tension is removed it is faced. Personally, then, faced with the tensions of human experience, we may not see or experience resolution. But we can find God’s presence.
And so with every roar overhead I think of our common humanity, beautiful and broken, and pray for God's presence...
Lord, have mercy...