Dear Friends of Second Church,
I’ve just started historian David McCullough’s new book on the Wright brothers—and it’s already fascinating.
For example: I’ve learned that even in grade school, Wilbur Wright was making models of things that flew, believing wholeheartedly that some day, he would fly.
I’ve learned that even though they were three years apart, Wilbur and Orville were so close that they not only worked together six days a week, lived together in their father’s house, and shared a bank account—sometimes one would be humming a tune in their workshop, and the other would come in from running an errand…humming the same tune.
Wilbur was a promising student from early on—until mysteriously, a fight with a notorious local bully in his senior year sent him into a personal tailspin. For three years, he rarely left the family home, and instead was the primary caregiver for his sickly mother, and an incredibly prodigious reader. This reading became the backbone of his education for adult life.
The way McCullough tells the story, it seems as if there was more than a little — what? — magic, perhaps…or better yet, destiny that hovered over these brothers.
The challenge of flight had fired the imagination of some of the world’s greatest thinkers for thousands of years, including people like Leonardo da Vinci. Yet it would be these two brothers, self-taught mechanics, working out of a Dayton, Ohio machine shop who were the first to fly.
Maybe one lesson to learn is that, when you’re the right person for the task, nothing can stand in your way.
But the Wrights didn’t seem to see it that way—they were well aware of the challenges they had to overcome, and all the reasons that their success was far from inevitable at every milestone of their journey.
Although they were religious men (their father was a bishop in the United Brethren), they saw their own story as a testimony to the power of perseverance. No matter what they found the strength to keep going—to keep trying—to stay focused.
Our faith would probably agree.
The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians: “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in him who strengthens me” (4:13).
Rather than dream of a faith that will make all doors fly open, and every obstacle evaporate, Paul urges us to seek a faith that gives us the power to keep going. He tells us to trust not simply in what God will do, but in what God will do in us to accomplish his purposes. This is what will teach us to soar.
May each of us seek God’s vision for how we might contribute to the greater good, in ways large and small, and may he grant us the strength to pursue it faithfully.