Graveyard Spirals Kill

I am a pilot.  Though I haven’t flown for 14 years, I LOVE flying.  Sometimes on those beautiful middle Tennessee spring or fall days, when the sky is clear, the wind is minimal, and the sun is shining… I’ll look up in the sky and dream that I can be back up there.  Maybe one day.

The worst day of flying still beats the best day of real work.  – Anonymous

So, why all the talk of flying?  Last night, during our discussion at about the importance of remaining connected to the body of believers in the church, I was reminded of the JFK Jr. airplane crash on July 16, 1999.  There is a full NTSB report of the crash here if you’re interested.  The cause of the crash was something pilots talk about a lot, which was a graveyard spiral caused by “failure to maintain control of the airplane due to spatial disorientation.”  As an airplane starts to make a turn, your body tells you “I’m turning” through the various wonderful God-given senses we have.  If the airplane is in a turn long enough, your body will adjust to the turn and given no other visual indicators (like on a dark night), it will feel like you’re flying straight and level.  One look at the altimeter will tell you that you’re descending (this happens in a turn).  Natural response?  Pull up!  But this only serves to tighten your turn, until you spiral into the ground, usually at an alarming rate.  At the point of impact, the NTSB estimated JFK Jr.’s plane was descending at 4,700 feet-per-minute.  In comparison, a standard descent in a commercial airliner is 500 fpm (and you feel it then too).


Like a graveyard spiral, so often through my day, my brain is giving me all sorts of messages on how to interpret what is going on around me.  These messages are influenced by my life experiences, my relationships, my overall body chemistry at that time (if I’m feeling physically or emotionally down, it is more difficult for me to interpret conflict accurately).  In the moment of confusion, I have two choices.

Choose the lie: “you’re not appreciated”, “wait until people find out who you really are”, “they’re laughing at you behind your back”, “Those guys are way better dads than you’ll ever be”)

lies and truth

image courtesy Cindy Bultema blog site

Choose Truth:  God has chosen me to be His own.  He has equipped me for life and godliness.  I am a new creation.  I am His servant, not the world’s.  I was bought with a price, and it cost me nothing – God’s perfect love and sovereignty will cast out all fear in me.

Which do I choose so often?  The lies… at least for a time.  Which is why it is so critical that I not do this life alone.  I MUST be in a community of people, growing, sharing, and BEING REAL.  As our pastor said during his message this Sunday in Hebrews, “ISOLATION KILLS”.

How do we pull out of the graveyard spiral of life?

1. Use your instruments – Focus on the truth, not what you feel like at that moment.  This will not be easy!  Use the instruments of faith, deep friendships, and Godly mentors.  Pilots have instruments in their plane before they fly.  Don’t wait for accountability.  Get it now.  Psalm 15:2, Psalm 25:5, Mark 9:24

2. Reduce power and level out – Often times, whatever is going on in your life is contributing to the chaos behind the lies.  Slow down, cancel extra engagements, get some rest, and eat right.  Even Jesus “got away” at times.  Matthew 14:23

3. Point your nose down – What?  We’re losing altitude and I have to point my nose down?!  YES!  It allows the plane to pickup speed, and thus have greater control over the airplane.  And in life, we need to give up control sometimes, submit to the Godly wisdom and guidance (sometimes through another person), and take ACTION on that guidance.  Trust in your shepherd.  Psalm 23

Are you in a graveyard spiral?  Are you tightening your turn by trying harder, putting a mask on, and isolating?  Get out of the spiral.  Trust God that it will be OK.  Put your faith in Jesus and not what the world says about you.

5 comments on “Graveyard Spirals Kill

  1. Craig Stumpf February 25, 2014 7:41 am

    Well written. Great application of your flying skills to the way we live as Christians.

  2. Anonymous March 10, 2014 9:50 am

    Are you putting a mask on “trying to show you are a true Christian” when you know you have behaved badly; treated others badly; acted arrogantly; lacked compassion; or just didn’t do the right thing? Are you isolating yourself by only being with people who agree with you and build up your ego??

    • kenraetz March 10, 2014 10:01 am

      Thank you for your honest questions. If I’m reading it correctly, I believe you’re asking me if I’m trying to mask my negative behavior with a “Christian perspective” or by simply “preaching to the choir”? Quite possibly, though I don’t intend to. I am a person in this life striving to reconcile my own battles in life (of which I believe everyone has) with a greater truth that is out there. Some manage to do this with science, some with strong family bonds, still others through work or athletic accomplishments… and some through escaping behaviors. One of my greatest struggles is thinking that I need to get affirmation from those around me to feel good about myself. What I am learning over time is to lean on a power that is greater than I’ll ever understand, but it is one that I can trust with all my heart. This is the very heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If I read it correctly, it exposes my heart for what it really is… prideful, selfish, ambitious at the expense of others, self-promoting, and not often focused on the good and joy of others. That is the purpose behind my writings… to share the constant exposure my heart has to the light, what I see and learn, and how I’m growing (and struggling) through it. I think that is why I’m here on earth in this life.

  3. Anonymous March 13, 2014 9:26 am

    I didn’t mean you personally and I apologize for not being more specific. I think we all need to examine our hearts because we are all sinners. It is easy to blame someone else for our behavior when ultimately we are responsible for our behavior. We need to look at our behavior that occurs “behind closed doors” and examine if we are still doing the right thing.

  4. Renee Stevens May 26, 2014 8:07 pm

    Ken – I love your writing. I am just catching up on your blog posts. You share from the heart and are not afraid to speak about your fears. I can really connect to what you write.

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