Flight Navigator

By Katie Heid

In a world of instant outrage and mudslinging, Tammie Jo Shults is a breath of fresh air.

The 56-year-old pilot flew under the radar for the most part until last month , when she made an emergency landing of a Southwest airplane after its engine exploded mid-flight.  Shults calmly steered the plane to a Philadelphia airport and landed with 149 passengers.  One died and at least 7 others were hospitalized.  Described by her passengers as having “nerves of steel”, Shults has denied requests for interviews and stated she was simply “doing her job”.

I’ve read numerous articles about Shults.  Besides the fact that she’s a devout Christian, the world should take note of a few other characteristics.  Shults joined the Navy in the 1980s not to advance a political feminist agenda, but to fulfill a lifelong dream she’d held in her heart since she was a little girl.  She became one of the military’s first female pilots not to meet a quota or brag to the media, but because flying was all she ever wanted to do.  She subsequently turned to teaching, then commercial flying because she loved it, not because she desired to be a political token.

These events led me to much meditation about God’s purpose for each one of our lives, and what this news story can teach us.

Suit up.  Being a military pilot takes intense training, and Shults took it seriously.  That instruction served her for decades as a Navy and commercial pilot.  When the time came for her training and instincts to kick in, she did so with professionalism, composure, and grace.  In the same way, we must put on the full armor of God and tackle our spiritual lives with the same tenacity. (Ephesians 6:13-17) If we aren’t plugged into His truth, we will fail when our faith is tested.

Don’t disregard the “little” moments.  While it’s tempting to look at the Southwest landing as Shults’ pinnacle life event, that kind of thinking does a great disservice to the other victories and everyday moments where God used her.  Her training, her professional relationship with other pilots, her interaction with her passengers, and those behind closed door moments with her family also have God’s fingerprints all over them.  Those moments, and the countless others that will follow Shults’ heroic actions, are all part of God’s plan for her life.  The seemingly meaningless events in your life?  Don’t underestimate God’s sovereignty.  You have no idea what He’s preparing you for, but you can be assured He’ll be with you every step of the way.

Bloom where God plants you.  It’s tempting to look at the jobs others do, put them on a pedestal, and then cut ourselves down in the process.  I will never pilot a plane, period, let alone land it under duress like Shults, and I’m more than okay with that!  Who cares if you can’t insert an I.V., argue a case in front of a judge, construct a skyscraper, perform surgery, run for office, guard a prison, sell a home, or teach preschoolers?  You are not required to do someone else’s job; you’re only obligated to use the talents God has given you. (Matthew 25:14-28)  A garden’s beauty hinges on its variety of flowers.

Based on her limited statements to the media through her employer, Shults will go back to flying commercial flights.  The news circus will die down and we will go back to life as usual.  Let’s remember God isn’t finished with any of us yet.  He is our flight navigator, and He’s promised to guide us every step of the way. (Psalm 32:8)

(And if you ever encounter Tammie Jo Shults, you should at least buy her a cup of coffee.)


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About the author:

Katie Heid has spent the better part of her career talking.  Whether it’s been as a women’s retreat speaker, member of her church’s speaking team, radio and television reporter, teacher, or a mom who has to repeat things one too many times, it’s clear she’s got the gift of gab.  She also loves Jesus and people.  Her lifelong journey with Jesus has shown her that since His greatest passion is loving people, that should be her passion, too.  Katie lives a chaotic life in Michigan with her husband and two sons.  It’s a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. (Although, she would rent it out in exchange for a good nap.)

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