A Bucket List and A Lesson Learned

Do you have a bucket list? I think most everyone at some point in their lives has created a bucket list. A list of things they want to do before they “kick the bucket.”  Looking back, a couple of big things were on my bucket list. One was to jump out of a plane — with a parachute of course. This was accomplished with my daughter in 2007. The other was to solo fly an airplane (done in 1978.)  Obviously, both involve an airplane.


I remember one of my piloting lessons was called a check ride. This is where you go up with a different pilot so they can evaluate how you are doing. 

On this ride, I was instructed to do a maneuver called a wing stall.  A wing stall requires the pilot to fly so slowly that it is impossible to keep your airplane flying level in the air.  This means you have to be able to recover without going into a spin. A crucial maneuver if you don’t want to end up in a junk pile on the ground!  I had practiced recovering from these several times and was able to successfully do so.  

During my check ride, I tried to perform a recovery a couple times. However, the check pilot determined that I had not performed a true wing stall and told me to try again.  I did try again and this time it worked a little too well.  I put the plane in a spin which I had no idea how to get out of.  The instructor shrieked, “Let go of the wheel!”  I did, and he was able to recover our plane from the spin.  I felt I left my stomach about 2000 feet up in the air as we flew back to the airport to review my flight.

I never did complete the hours to get my pilot’s license. Nonetheless, over the 40+ years since that memorable check ride, I have recalled the episode many times. And each time, I hear the shriek to let go of the wheel.


Similarly, I stand at a point in time where, from time to time, I find myself looking back over the years of my life. As I do, I “see” many times when I thought I was in control, only to hear in a still, small voice – “Let go of the wheel!” Psalm 31:3 says, “For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me.”  The voice was God, who protected me during all these years. The control is not mine to have. It is his.   

This is a story I’ve told to my grandchildren over the years.  There are times when we think we are in control. But we are not! We need to “Let go of the wheel” and let our Savior take control of the situation and our lives.  

If I had kept my hands on the wheel and not let the instructor take control during our check ride plane spin, more than likely neither of us would be here today. It was crucial that I surrender control.


There are still many things on my bucket list, but the one at the top is to be speaking into my grandchildren’s lives and helping them see that God is truly in control. More than anything, I want them to know that they need to follow him, trust him, and believe in him. Just as I had to let go of the wheel surrendering control of the plane, we need to let God be in complete control of our lives so that we come in for a safe landing.

Growing up, I often saw a bumper sticker that said, “God is my co-pilot.” As a child, I thought it seemed like a great saying.  Now I see how mistaken it is. He is not my co-pilot, “God is the pilot.” 

One comment on “A Bucket List and A Lesson Learned

  1. Love this – God IS the pilot! And I’m so thankful to have you speaking into your children and grandchildren’s lives! It’s an honor and a blessing ????

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