My daughter, who has been homeschooled for the majority of her education, is doing her higher school certificate this year and she’s starting to feel the pressure. In fact, we all are. In passing one day, I randomly encouraged her to “be like Maverick and engage.” Understanding the context of the reference, she smiled back.
As I am known to do from time to time, I started to think a bit deeper about the meaning of those words.
At the end of Top Gun (1986), Maverick sits waiting as back-up. He’s in an F-14, waiting as “ready-five” or ”ready-alert“, things don’t go well for the team and he’s then called into the fight. Once he gets there, he wavers. At this point in time he has a choice whether to engage or disengage. He chooses to engage.
Another example from 1986 comes from the film ‘Iron Eagle‘. When retired Air Force Colonel, Chappy Sinclair chooses to engage with the rescue of a friend, who is being held as a P.O.W. Sinclair chooses to help his friend’s son pilot an F-16 into a war zone. His most memorable words were:
“God doesn’t give people talents that he doesn’t want people to use. And he gave you The Touch. It’s a power inside of you, down there where you keep your guts boy! It’s all you need to blast your way in and get back what they took from you.” (I.E, 1986)
Although Maverick (Pete Mitchell – Tom Cruise) and Chappy (Louis Gossett Jr.) are fictional characters, there are sound examples throughout history of men and women, who were called into the fight.
One of those was Winston Churchill. At the age of 65, after many years of being dismissed for his warnings about the state of the world, he was called into the fight. He had the same choice as Maverick and Chappy. Engage or disengage. He chose to engage.
If you’re feeling the pressure today, and no doubt you will, because all of us do, remember these examples. Remember that God did not waver when He created you. He freely and decisively chose to engage in life with you, that you may freely and decisively engage in life with him.[i]
You have a God-given, grace enabled freedom, and you are called upon by God to live that out. Engage in life with Him through Jesus Christ, and engage in life with others. This freedom comes with responsibility; His grace confronts us with a choice. We choose daily, whether to invite God into our decisions, and be for others or for ourselves. That choice can be tough. Faith can be tough.
But we don’t put our faith in our circumstances. We don’t put our faith in faith. We put our faith in God, learning from that which He has given and anticipating where He will guide us, based on what He’s given and already done in the past for us. We have a history with God, even if we don’t want to acknowledge it. We are summoned to ‘trust in the Lord with all our heart, [to] lean not on our own understanding, [to] submit all things to Him, and he will make our paths straight.’ (Proverbs 3:5-6).
One of the other great historical examples comes from theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He reminds us of the choice to engage, while when in a Nazi prison, he wrote:
‘In me it is dark, but with you there is light.
I am lonely, but you do not abandon me.
I am faint-hearted, but from you comes my help.
I am restless, but with you is peace.
In me is bitterness, but with you is patience.
I do not understand your ways, but you know the right way for me.’ [ii]
So whatever we might meet in the coming day, be like Maverick and engage. Be like Churchill and engage. Be like Bonhoeffer and engage. Ultimately, be like Christ and engage. Stand with Christ and engage. They could have chosen differently, refused the fight, and disengaged entirely, but they chose not to. As a result, we are confronted by their example.
[i] In this statement, I’m drawing from Karl Barth.
[ii] Bonhoeffer, D. BDW:8, Letters & Papers From Prison, Fortress Press (p.195)
Image: Iron Eagle, Sidney J. Furie, Tri-Star Pictures, 1986 (Use of this image is considered to be within the boundaries of fair use, given that the image is applied here, for the use of teaching, and comment in a not-for-profit context, and it contains clear credit and promotion of the film as a whole.)