The Bullet of Community: Who Packed Your Parachute
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. Philippians 3:7
The following is based on an e-mail I received some time ago. It triggered a deep response of gratitude in my mind and heart for Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:7). I have added my personal reflections as an Air Force pilot at the end of Charles Plumb’s story. Quite often, in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is really important. We may fail to say hello, please or thanks to other people, forget to congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, neglect to give a compliment or to just do something nice for a person for no reason except Jesus! Here is a great war story that ought to be fresh every day!
Charles Plumb, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, was a jet pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was hit and destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy territory. He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison. To know the story of the brutality, pain, loneliness and despair these men who were held prisoner by the communists endured will make each of them exalted heroes in every American’s mind. Plumb survived that ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience.
One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, “You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!”
“How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb.
“I packed your parachute,” the man replied.
Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, “I guess it worked!”
Plumb assured him, “It sure did. If the chute you packed hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about that man who had packed his chute. Plumb remarked later, “I kept wondering what he might have looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat, a bib in the back, and bell bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said good morning, how are you or anything else because, you see, I was a fighter pilot, and he was just a sailor.
Plumb thought of the many hours that particular sailor had spent at a long wooden table in the bowels of the aircraft carrier, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute. Each time that sailor packed a chute he held in his hands the fate of someone he didn’t know. (I shall never forget my trip to the survival section of my Air Force unit. While we watched the “airmen” pack a chute one of us might use, we were briefed on the critical precision necessary if the chute was to work properly.)
At the end of his lectures, Plumb always asks his audience, “Who’s packing your parachute?” This is a great question! Someone always has and always will. We can’t survive our mission in life without help.
Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day. It could be an ordinary need or an unsuspected crisis! Plumb also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when he ejected from his aircraft over enemy territory – he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute and his spiritual parachute. He called on all these supports while enduring hunger, isolation and beatings before finally reaching safety. His experience should be a forceful reminder that all of us need to prepare ourselves to weather whatever storms lie ahead. As you go through this week, this month, this year … recognize people who pack your parachute!
This story by Plumb makes a significant and encouraging point! As a former Air Force jet pilot, I never had to use my chute. I came closest to doing so one cold February day over the North Atlantic. Why I came so close to “bailing out” is a moving story I’ll have to postpone until later. But here is what was in my mind. My first thought was that the freezing water would be my second challenge, once I got out of the plane (my first challenge). But I had confidence all along my chute would work. They had for all my fellow flyers whenever they had needed them. The Lord has all of His Cross Disciples on a spiritual mission for His purposes. Reaching the target is often risky and dangerous if we fly the mission right. Some of us will be hit hard and lose much, but we must never forget His vow to save us. Wherever we are, He has packed our chute with the promise of His Presence. Even in our worst emergencies, He is there and He has already worked out His plan! Every one of His chutes is guaranteed to work when needed. Remember, our spiritual parachutes are His promises.
All of us can be like that sailor who packed Plumb’s chute. Whenever we “put” something of the truth of Jesus into another person’s life, we are packing their spiritual parachute. It could be a comment, a word of counsel, a sermon, a Bible study lesson, quoting a verse of Scripture, a written note or e-mail, etc. Every true Disciple should seek to pack his or her own mind as well as the minds of others with “parachute truth” about the Lord Jesus. How are you doing at it?
Having Christ’s truth loaded in your mind, when the whole world hates you enough to fire every lie they can to destroy you, not only makes your mission “rescue possible,” but gives you confidence and peace while you live out your life in the heat of the battle! Thank God for the “truth packers” He has brought into your life! I have made a list of some of mine. As I read their names in gratitude … many of them now in heaven …. I know the Lord used them in significant ways to “pack my chute!”
“Keep in mind that if the world hates you (and tries to shoot you down) know that it hated Me first … but I have chosen you (to fly My mission of truth) … I will send the Holy Spirit to testify to you about Me … so that I can send you also as the Father sent Me … you must be a witness of what it means to be with Me in all I Am intending to do, have done and will do (John 15:18-19, 26-27). The world hates Me because I testify to what it does is evil (John 7:7). Man your planes, My followers, and let’s take off! Don’t worry about what might happen to you. Just be concerned about flying the mission as effectively as possible. Remember … I Myself have packed your chute!”