but sometimes when you truly do things totally right,
the outcome can turn out horribly wrong
By Peter Jordan
Back in the early days of jet-powered airliners, there was a horrendous airplane crash that resulted in the loss of more than 100 lives. The pilot in command did everything ‘by the book,’ yet the tragedy occurred anyway. Today we enjoy amazing safety in the air—in great part because of the lessons we learned from this sort of early disaster. This is a true story and we’ll follow it further down the page.
Have you ever done something that you felt was so, so right, and yet the result was a complete misunderstanding—and worse? Have you ever been falsely accused of something? In times like that it’s hard to be objective and to not try to shift the blame—or at least a bit of the blame—back on other people. But when others report on the event (as in the accident investigation into the crash that I’ll describe), we’re left with cold, hard facts. And so it is with God . . . He sees what really happens.In God’s Word to us, there are several men named Joseph. Three of them ran into awful situations in their lives. One was falsely convicted, another was smeared and the third basically disappeared from view. Not one of them fought to regain their reputation.
Joseph son of Jacob, while still a teenager, narrowly escaped the clutches of a seductive temptress (do you think that was easy for him?). Instead of being given the Honorable-and-Righteous-Young-Man-of-the-Year award, Joseph was thrown into a filthy prison and left amongst the rats to rot. He never fought for his reputation—but as we know—he was eventually released and rewarded. (Gen 39-40)
Joseph husband of Mary the mother of Christ (and our Savior’s supposed biological father), lived his entire married life under a cloud of suspicion and malicious gossip. He remained silent, never trying to justify himself. I somehow think that this Joseph is highly regarded in heaven. (Matt 1)
Joseph (also known as Barnabas), was a great and generous and courageous man, a man full of the Holy Spirit and encouragement, a leader, a mentor, a discipler; in short, a good man. Then all of a sudden it seems he disappears from the face of the earth—after he had a bit of a dust-up with the apostle Paul over the make-up of a missionary team. He went silent, never demanding to be heard, and only once was his name mentioned again. If you study this man’s life, you’ll find that though he appears to be the ‘fall guy’ in the quarrel, eventually he is justified. (To get the rest of the story, you’ll have to read Acts 4:36 to 15:39; Col 4:10; Philemon 24; and of course the Gospel of Mark!)
None of these Josephs fought back to clear their reputation, which in each case had been demolished and dishonored.
Now let’s get back to our modern-day airliner tragedy and the investigation that followed and eventually restored the Captain’s reputation . . .
The gleaming silvery airliner was approaching a large airport for landing. It was a beautiful and clear summertime Sunday morning as the Captain guided the graceful ‘bird’ on its approach to the two-mile-long runway.
Disasters like the one that was about to happen, never are the result of just one thing going wrong. In any accident there is almost always a series of events that together, lead up to a final climactic catastrophe. In this case there was no exception to that rule; but let’s for the sake of our story, say that in this case the ending was an isolated incident that came about because the pilot took the correct action.
The correct action proved to be the wrong action. As the great aircraft smoothly descended to just 60 feet above the ground, poised for a smooth touchdown, the co-pilot impulsively activated the ‘speed brakes’—huge metal panels on the upper surface of each wing that pop up on command. These ‘brakes’ effectively cause the aircraft to lose most of its lift, and they are only supposed to be deployed after the aircraft’s wheels touch the ground.
For those last 60 feet to the runway, the aircraft dropped like a stone. Immediately, following prescribed emergency procedures, the Captain rammed on full power and called for the speed brakes to be retracted. He intended to climb and try for another landing.
The now-screaming engines could not quickly-enough boost the 200-ton airplane back into the sky, so it continued its plummeting fall and smashed onto the runway, ripping one of the engines pods away, leaving exposed fuel lines eager to ignite into a devastating fire. None of this was visible from the cockpit.
But the three remaining engines finally did their job and the mortally injured bird staggered back into the air with the Captain still thinking he was taking the appropriate action, hoping to go around and try for another landing. In just a few short minutes, with one wing exploding and ablaze, the enormous aircraft nosed over and crashed—with the loss of all on board.
The Captain did the right thing—but it proved to be horribly wrong. (If his split-second decision had been to keep the aircraft on the ground, bring it to a stop and quickly evacuate all passengers, there may not have been any fatalities. But his emergency training had taught him to try for another landing. Anyway, his predicament was completely unique.)
Until the investigation, the Captain’s reputation was clouded. Eventually the whole sequence of events was published, including every word and sound that was tape-recorded in the cockpit—even the twice-spoken apology of the co-pilot for his impulsive action that led to the final catastrophe.
And you know what? The Captain offered forgiveness to the co-pilot—for the second time—during the final plunge.
These were extreme examples of good people doing the right thing with the right motive, but ending up with bad results.
Can you relate? Have you ever had to see your reputation go down the tubes—for no good reason? Even Jesus was willing to give up his reputation—and not once did he try to defend himself.
Till next time,
Peter & Donna, along with the YWAM Associates Team, live in the prairie city of Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. They have been in YWAM since 1976 and try to give leadership to the rapidly expanding ministry of encouragement directed toward the approximately 3,000,000 people who have served in YWAM, long or short term. They have four children (two in YWAM) and nine grandchildren.