From The Files: Pre-Flight Inspection (Feb. 20, 2013)

As I waited to board my Southwest Airlines flight in St. Louis last weekend, I watched the pilot take the customary walk around the aircraft as he conducted his pre-flight inspection. I was intrigued by this procedure. It was the first flight of the day for the plane and it had, no doubt, been thoroughly checked over by the mechanics before being brought to the gate. The pilot carefully went about his duties starting with the front landing gear and moving counterclockwise around the aircraft.
I thought about what a “pre-flight inspection” might look like for our students. What do we look for to see if they are ready to “fly?” Do they have a sense of purpose and direction? Do they have a respect for time and recognize that their failure to function in a timely way can cause problems for others? Can they spot small problems and take corrective action before they endanger themselves and others? Do they have the character to take responsibility to “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God” (Micah 6:8)? Do they understand the wisdom of following God’s “flight plan” as revealed in scripture and recognize that following biblical truth can enable one to avoid many of the storms of life?

It would seem wise for parents and teachers to invest some time to analyze where their students are at any point in time. What would a “pre-flight inspection” reveal? What areas of giftedness and maturing responsibility are becoming evident? What traits do we see that can be affirmed, reinforced and further developed? Children are often oblivious to their own abilities and need insight from others to begin to discern how the Lord has uniquely equipped them for life and service.

On the other hand, what areas of immaturity and selfishness are present that, if not addressed, will leave them ill-prepared for college or for life outside my home? How many years do we have left to work on the needed changes? What’s our strategy? When do we step back and let him/her experience failure as part of the learning process (even though it may embarrass us in the short term!)? What issues of obedience and respect for authority (even when you don’t agree with it) do we need to see strengthened? What aspects of responsibility and stewardship of possessions, finances, and the creation need to be honed to develop a responsible student, employee, spouse, and citizen in God’s kingdom? How are we going to measure our progress to see if we are making the desired progress to be sure he/she is ready for “take-off”?

I have always taken encouragement in the fact that the pilot was on the plane with me! He’s not only concerned for my safety; he’s concerned for his own! At this point, the analogy breaks down. We will not be on the trip with our children. At some point, they will “take-off.” As Dr. Huxtable used to tell his wife in the Bill Cosby Show, “Remember, Claire, the object is to get the kids out of the house!”

Contrary to the message of the flight attendant, you can’t just “sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight.” It takes constant attention and intentional effort to parent well. Take a few minutes for a “pre-flight inspection” this week. Identify areas to compliment and affirm your child. Share areas where you want to help them mature and grow and talk together about how to make that happen. It will make the trip safer for all, and, in the long run, more enjoyable, too!