I Used to Be Cool

a cool F-15C jet aircraft flying lowMy friend, Ivan, shared this video (03:53) of his USAF unit conducting F-15C low-level training in Wales, UK. Then he sighed and said, “I used to be cool.” His comment struck deep because I felt both his messages.

First, what Ivan did was cool. An elite team selected him from a multitude of applicants. They spent a lot of money and risked their lives to train him. Then, they sent him out to fly multi-million dollar, supersonic aircraft worldwide, trusting him to defend honor, hearth, and home. His daily work was the photogenic essence of great stories. Many dream of that mantle, but few ever wear it.

Second, after a whole career of daily significance, he confessed his retirement felt less important, not so cool.

a cool single engine, high wing airplane landing on wet jungle airstripI used to do cool stuff, too. For almost two decades, I flew out on the pointy end of the ministry spear. A rigorous selection process granted me membership in an elite team. Then they, too, spent thousands of dollars and risked their lives training me to throw a ton and a half of aluminum at mud strips you wouldn’t drive your car on (if you could get it there).

a cool pilot standing in jungle outside airplane, holding a baby in his armsOur team provided the Amazon Jungle’s indigenous people with their only alternate travel option—walk for days or fly for minutes. We impacted someone’s life every day. We saved someone’s life every week. The heady wine of significance became the color of daily life.

After returning home, I was happy to help the team from afar. But I never noticed withdrawal setting in. I accepted, without conscious choice, that my life and work were now ordinary, average, second class. In other words, I was no longer cool.

It took me a long time to see it. My feelings were real enough. But my thinking rested on the lie that said my value was only as good as what I acquired, produced, or accomplished. If I did cool stuff, I was cool. If not, well . . .

The truth is, God designed me even before he made the world. He sent me for birth at precisely the right time, free to choose—or not—to fulfill my purpose. He formed me in his image and gave me everything needed to succeed. But I, myself, brought no ability or quality to the table.

Even so, after I rejected him and his plan, he loved me so much that he sent his Son, Jesus, to pay for my failure. His sacrifice demonstrated how much he valued me—and every other person on the planet.

So, yeah, we’re cool because God says so. That’s what Easter is all about.

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10 thoughts on “I Used to Be Cool”

  1. It is possible to feel uncool as we approach and hit retirement age. The feeling is real but the question is are we living for a feeling or what God has called us to. As I see the younger men start their lives I can feel this way but then I remember that I have been called to raise a family and to be a husband so I will accept the mundane in my career for this higher calling

  2. Thanks for sharing this Jim, I too have been feeling “not as cool” as when I was flying actively and God has been reminding me that HE is the “Determiner of Value” and I need check with him when I feel “less than” for not being the pilot-guy any more.
    Appreciate your wisdom and for sharing this,
    Kevin

  3. Thanks, Jim, I experienced both examples of this, having flown A-6E Intruders in the Navy, then flying the various MAF aircraft in West and Central Africa.

    Both were cool, and both were important. I think my time with MAF (and with Air Serv a few years earlier) softened the reduction in “coolness” after I left the Navy. And the traditional charter and corporate flying I’ve done since then has kept a modicum of cool in my life, too.

    1. I’ve often thought the challenge of flying off carriers would have some similarities with jungle operations—precise airspeed and glide path control, then counting on brakes and/or arresting wire to stop before running off the far end. Glad you got to do that. Thanks for your service with the Navy and with MAF.

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