For What It’s Worth

Why so nervous?

One Saturday a few weekends ago, Carol and I had the privilege and the fun of attending a flying competition for RC (radio-controlled) model airplanes. Our son-in-law is an RC plane enthusiast and was flying his plane in the competition. Since the event was in suburban Wichita, only a short drive from here, and we had never watched Art fly in competition, we hopped in the car and zipped up I-35 to Wichita for a nice Friday night-Saturday outing visiting our daughter and son-in-law and watching him fly.

For those of you who don’t know, RC plane hobbyists take their hobby seriously. Well they should since they invest significant time and effort, as well as a coin or two, into enjoying their hobby. Most of them build and fly their own planes.

In the competition, they fly their planes in a circle around three strategically placed pylons. The pylons are tall, slender poles, perhaps 20 to 30 feet in height (that’s a stab-in-the-dark guess as I don’t know for sure the height). I don’t know the distance involved either. I just know that in the categories of competition being flown that Saturday the planes could make 11 laps around the pylons in under two minutes, some under a minute and 45 seconds. They zoomed around with speeds about 190 miles an hour in turns and more than 200 mph in straight flight.

A race consisted of five heats with points earned based on the competitor’s finish in each heat. Three competitors flew in each heat, and, believe me, that was enough. Any more than that and there would have been airplane parts flying everywhere.

In most heats, the participating planes finished intact, i.e., in one piece. However, in several heats planes either collided in midair, dived to the ground due to pilot error, or crash-landed. It was spectacular to watch, but agonizing for the competitors.

Needless to say, competitors can be a bit nervous or apprehensive when they take the field for a race. They are risking pride and ego in addition to a plane that took significant time, effort, and money to build.

As the competition was about to start, I listened to several competitors chatting about being nervous. Responding to an inquiry, one man, a veteran competitor, said that he didn’t really get nervous. But, he added this comment: “My first time, I was really nervous as we were revving up to start. Then, I said to myself, ‘As a Navy pilot, I made 493 carrier landings, 198 of them at night, and I’m nervous about flying this toy plane?’ Haven’t really been nervous since.”

His comment has stuck with me.

How many times have I been nervous or fearful when doing something I know should not cause me to be apprehensive or fearful? Certainly, nothing I face entails the danger or possible consequences faced by a pilot landing a jet on a carrier deck. I was part of the ship’s crew, not a pilot, but I served on a carrier while in the Navy, so I have some knowledge of the possible consequences.

During my career as a reporter, I often experienced apprehension or nervousness about approaching certain people or situations for information. At times, the consequences were angry words and threats, but that was the exception, not the rule. So, why was I that nervous?

In today’s world, as Christians we may sometimes face certain situations with nervousness. Should I speak up? What happens if I do? Is silence or non-action the wiser course to take? Who am I going to offend in this culture where offense so easily occurs?

Perhaps the pilot’s comment doesn’t strike a chord with you, but it does with me.

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