Tears clouded David’s tired eyes as he squirmed and kicked at the sheets. “Why does this keep happening?” he asked, gritting his teeth to hold back the emotion. With his Rival gun already missing, losing his Colorado Rockies blanket was too much. As the tears started to stream down his face, I tried to convince him there were other blankets.
“No there aren’t,” he said with a muffled voice, his face buried in his pillow. The pink and blue bunny quilt we eventually did find wasn’t going to cut it either. I wanted to leave, so I gave him a forced hug and said “goodnight”. That’s when Deb came in. It was her turn, and she saw the look in his eyes. Kneeling down by his bed, she rubbed his back, and the writhing and moaning stopped. I paused just outside his door. Hurricane velocity winds were stirring up waves of anxiety in our boy, and Deb was stepping into his storm. Once again, she was right. With a silent exhale, I went back into his room, put my hand on his back with hers, and we prayed.
After all the kids were asleep, a 1980s ache was screaming to be satisfied, so while Deb folded socks, I grabbed the computer and clicked my way to the opening scene from Top Gun. The fog blowing over the deck of the aircraft carrier as an F-14 Tomcat moves onto the screen, the rising sun, the silhouettes of men working to get the plane ready, and the music all stirred up the kid in me, but before Kenny Loggins could sing Danger Zone, the scene switched to a dog fight. Someone had edited the clip, and I was watching the climax. Maverick was sitting on standby in his F-14 while Iceman and Hollywood were facing not 2 but 4 MiGs (Russian fighter jets). Seconds into the fight, one of them sends a missile through Hollywood’s wing. He yells, “I’m hit, I’m hit,” as Iceman watches him go down. The music changes, and Maverick scrambles. He drops his helmet visor, puts on his mask, and salutes the technician giving him the signal to fire up and take off. I was locked in. MiGs are flying around Iceman like bees around honey, and Iceman is screaming into his radio for Maverick to hurry up, but before Maverick can do anything, a MiG flies in front of him, creating a jet wash that causes him to lose control. Sweat and wild eyes tell us he is going back to the accident when he lost his partner, when he lost Goose. He gets control of the plane, but he disengages saying, “It’s no good.” The fear, the stress, the panic is too much, and he starts flying away. As his co-pilot pleads with him to get back in the fight, Maverick looks down at some dog tags and repeats, “Talk to me Goose.” Then, when everyone is giving up on him, he turns the plane around to go help his wingman. I watched, and God planted a seed.
A few days later, Deb was gone, so I did what any desperate dad will do. I took the kids to La Casita. Grabbing my shrimp taco, I asked, “Do you guys think you’ve heard anything from God this week?” They thought for a minute. David was finishing a bite of his burrito, and through the beans, I heard, “I need to take a chill pill.”
“What?” I asked. He smiled and repeated what he said. I put down my taco and looked at him. “How did God tell you that?”
Taking a drink of his water and speaking a little more clearly, he said, “I was reading about Jesus calming the storm, and God told me I need to take a chill pill.” My mind went back to the night when he went over the edge—the kicking, the tears, the exhaustion, a night when I was at a loss, an adult looking down on a boy with childish struggles. I yelled, probably a little too loud for La Casita, “David, do you realize God was speaking to you! You were spinning out of control, and God spoke.” As the words left my mouth, the connection, the seed that God had planted worked its way to the surface.
When we got home, we watched the dog fight and all of us saw it. The plane was going down, and the anxiety was too much until Maverick paused and whispered, “Talk to me Goose.” Like that scared pilot, David paused to hear a voice, but he didn’t hear Goose. He heard a voice full of a love and understanding much greater than even his own father could offer. In Matthew 19, Jesus tells His disciples to let the children come to Him. He takes them in His arms and blesses them. When David’s plane was spinning out of control, headed into the ocean, Jesus held him and spoke words that blessed him with the strength to head back into the fight, to reengage. And what about that scene in the movie? There is something about the way it moved me, the timing of it, and the way God used it. Could it be that God reached all the way back to 1986 so that He could bless the little boy in me too? The adult can’t get chills listening to a synthesizer and watching some silhouettes on an aircraft carrier, but the boy can. And the adult never dares to celebrate the wonder in a sacred connection between his son and Maverick, but the boy does. He saw and blessed both David and me just like He sees and longs to bless the little kid in all of us. At the end of the movie, just like the beginning, Maverick buzzes the tower. It’s the kid in him wanting to celebrate. Something “sacred” showed up in a “secular” movie, and the One who called the little children to come to Him was behind it all. God did what I could not. He saw the little boy in each of us, He spoke, and He gave us a reason to buzz the tower.