Lift vs. Drag

Dr. Jon R Roebuck, Executive Director

For a number of years, I have held a Private Pilot’s license.  It’s an expensive hobby and thus, for me, it is a hobby rarely enjoyed.  But I love the thought of flying and if time and money were no object, I’d like to climb into the skies with a lot more regularity.  It’s just one of those thrills that you can’t really describe unless you have been there.  If you are a pilot, or even an aviation enthusiast, you would know the answer to this question: “What are the four main forces that affect flight?”  Easy. They are: gravity, thrust, lift, and drag.

Let’s talk about those last two for a moment.  Lift is created when the air pressure under the wing is greater than the pressure above it.  That’s why wings are shaped the way they are.  Bernoulli’s principle comes into play which states that the faster air flows over a surface, the less air pressure is exerted.  The curve on the top surface of the wing forces a quicker airflow, thus there is less air pressure on the top surface of the wing, which creates lift.  (I know that may be a little technical but the next time you are streaking across the sky at 600 m.p.h. give a little nod to that 18th century Swiss physicist.)  Drag is a little easier to explain.  It’s the wind resistance caused by the various surfaces when they are pulled through the air.  The “cleaner” the surface area of the plane, the less drag.  (That’s why retractable gear is almost always found on high-speed aircraft.)  Lift and drag.  One helps a plane to fly.  The other holds it back.

All of us are being affected by lift and drag.  They are the forces which can allow our spirits to soar or our hearts to sink.  And no, I’m no longer talking about airplanes and air pressure.  There are forces at work in our world that tend to give us a little lift.  Our days are brightened by the people who love, nurture, and encourage us.  Our spirits soar when we are joined to moments, organizations, or relationships that help humanity, solve social ills, or ease the suffering of others.  We long for the joy and euphoria that comes when we serve, when we heal, and when we make a difference.  We are “lifted” by repairing brokenness, by ending violence, and by easing injustice and poverty and hunger.  We not only crave the “lifting moments,” we must experience them.  A life devoid of service to others, a life devoid of acceptance and worth, a life devoid of love and encouragement is a lonely and painful life.  We are lifted by good friendships, meaningful encounters with God’s Spirit, and by the warmth and goodness of humanity when it is demonstrated.

My fear is that often in this tension between lift and drag, that the power of drag wins out.  Call it negativity, sorrow, regret, or disappointment.  Its affect is certainly felt by each of us.  There are many numbered among us who are so very disillusioned by the current political climate.  Others feel the negative pull of anger on social media.  Still others experience drag in the day-to-drudgery of what they perceive to be “meaningless” work.  Others are pulled down by the oppressive weight of loneliness, shame, or remorse.  All of us want to soar… but sometimes life “drags” us down.

So how can we overcome drag so that we can rise once again?  Great question.  Though I certainly don’t have all the answers, I do want to offer this thought.  Think in terms of what surrounds you.  Think first in terms of those things that are constantly bombarding your life.  Think social media.  Think 24-hour news cycles.  Think movies and music.  Think negative conversations and opinionated people.  Step back for a moment and consider how much flows into your heart and mind and how much you allow to dwell there.  Though you cannot always control the amount of negativity that flows around you, you CAN choose how much you want to harbor.  Maybe you need to take a cell phone sabbatical, or a Facebook holiday, or a relationship retreat.  Maybe you need to sever some of the ties that bind you to negativity so that you can just breathe again.

So where to find those things that can lift your life?  Look in the places that have always brought you joy and fulfillment… look in old, treasured friendships, or in reassuring passages from God’s Word, or in a book that bespeaks of what is best in our humanity, or in opportunities to give yourself away to a higher, more noble cause. Find it in those places where God Himself has secretly hidden it away for you to discover.

If you ever get to pilot a small plane, you will discover that once you overcome the drag as you speed along the tarmac, it becomes hard to keep a plane on the ground.  Planes are designed to fly… and so are you.