The haze thickened and the sea intensified the humidity. Within an hour, the lights of Martha's Vineyard were only 15 minutes away, but invisible.
Then Kennedy's mind started playing tricks; the instrument panel and his head were telling him different things. It was like one of Barlow's better psychedelic efforts for the Grateful Dead, only this nightmare was for real.
Kennedy lost his bearings, then lost control of the plane.
In the dry parlance of the investigation, this is being called a 'disorientation accident'. Kennedy seems to have had a sudden attack of what pilots call 'black hole vertigo': a three-way disconnection between reason, instinct and reality - even an inability to tell the difference between up and down.
In the night haze, Kennedy's instincts began to lie to him; his mind's eye was blind. Only with experience, which Kennedy lacked, can a pilot trust the needles on the dials more than what his brain is telling him.
Black hole vertigo causes a pilot to think he is flying where he is not, and to overcompensate. The plane might feel as if it's veering to the right, said Byron Byrnes, an official of the Air Traffic Controllers' Association, but the double-pointed needle on the artificial-horizon dial tells you different. The pilot, in error, eases the 'yoke' control to the right.
To save yourself, you have to ignore the voices inside your head. Otherwise, you pass the point of no return, at which your brain and the dials really are in harmony - only the needles on the altimeter are now spinning towards zero, and you are heading for the point at which black night meets black sea.
- Ed Vulliamy, The Guardian, 1999
This retracing of tragedy is also an allegory of my life - a retracing of every time I've gotten lost along this path.
Questions kept circling in my head, and then seemingly moved in my heart... and isn't that the essence of sin itself. The thoughts we fail to take captive, that give birth to desire, that gives birth to sin, that gives birth to death..."and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death" (James 1:15).
We demolish arguments and every pretension
that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,
and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Cor 10:5
In the garden, the serpent didn't begin his conversation with Eve with a statement, but a question. And in the midst of the darkness, I begin to feel around blindly for the answers within myself.
Who am I
What is life
What is love
I felt like I didn't know anymore, when just months before I'd been so sure of it all. In hindsight, I wonder if I'd become prideful or overly confident in my ability to do this life thing without daily reliance on the only thing that truly saves us from ourselves. I'd felt, for years, that I'd turned such a sharp corner on my past. I'd walked in such freedom from it for so long that I'd gotten it tattooed it on my wrist.
And then, in those dark months that followed, I struggled to explain what the word "free" even meant to me anymore, even though it was there, permanently marked on my body.
Ann Voskamp says that without the lens of His word, the world warps. And I say so do we, bending and twisting away from truth - grasping at illusions and counterfeit pleasures. We find ourselves veering off the course and into the darkness; a spiritual black hole vertigo that separates us from the truth. The only truth that can set us free (John 8:32).
"Kennedy lost his bearings, then lost control of his plane."
When we lose our bearings, we lose control of our lives - and sometimes, we don't even realize it until we're hurling aimlessly into the darkness, into "the point in which the black night meets black sea".
I could feel it, the spiral, the crashing downward - the haunting but familiar feeling that I'd passed the point of no return.
He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
He drew me out of deep waters.
And isn't that my story? Over and over and over again. The story of repeated rescue; of His faithfulness in saving me from myself.
And the questions, all of the ones I began looking for outside of the truth, He answers:
He reminds me of who He is so that I can remember not who I am, but whose I am; that He is not the author of confusion, but of peace (1 Cor 14:33). I am the daughter of the King, even when I'm a prodigal. "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters" (2 Cor 6:18).
He alone is life, and His word is life and our life is in Him. "For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ" (Colossians 3:3). "The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life" (JN 6:63). "Whoever follows me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life" (JN 8:12). The peace He gives cannot be found in this world: "My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives" (JN 14:27).
He alone is love. The world and the enemy and even our own hearts will try to sell is counterfeit versions, but "We have come to know and believe the love God has for us. God is love; whoever abides in God, and God in him" (1 JN 4:16).
When the fog began to recede and glimpses of light pierced the darkness, I found comfort in the strangest of places. Here. In these pages that I've written over the course of these last nine years. Each entry like stone markers on this path that's paved by my inconsistency intertwined with His faithfulness and by His word.
Because that's what's here, interwoven in the story of my life, His words:
"And you who are fallen and broken and scraped– you need your messy, real, ugly stories. Because in the hands of the Spirit, story becomes a salve to the skinned souls.
The first person that any words ever heal — is the writer of those words.Because our words aren’t wholly our words.
They are from the Word God Himself."