The AC-130 Gunship: A “security blanket” 3,000 meters over my head in combat

Do you have nightlights in your house? Maybe you have scotophobia. Does your child go to bed with a security blanket? Perhaps he or she has lygophobia.  

Did I impress you with my big words?

Scotophobia is a big name for “fear of the dark”. Lygophobia is translated “fear of twilight” in English.  For children who are still trying to understand their world and how it works, darkness can become very scary. 

Humans aren’t naturally nocturnal. Children intuitively observe big, strong adults retreating to the safety of our homes or turning on the lights as soon as it becomes dark.  This can leave a powerful impact on some children. 

For other children (and some adults), a fear of the dark is a more basic response. Because we can’t see into the darkness, it represents the unknown. It takes years for the brain to be able to fill in what can’t be seen in the darkness with the memory of what was there in the light. This is the power of a “security blanket”.  It represents something known and familiar in a world that is dark and scary to a child.

Some adults will experience brief moments of scotophobia.  For example, when walking through an unfamiliar house in the middle of the night, we all have a slight fear of bumping into a table or stubbing our toes on a piece of furniture.  The darkness plus the unknown environment has adults acting like children (except we substitute nightlights as the grown-up version of a security blanket).

You’re not alone

“Rangers own the night.” This was the unofficial motto for many of the years that I served as an US Army Ranger.  I lived like a vampire for most of the time I was in training or combat: awake all night and rushing into bed before the sun came up.  Naturally, I had to learn early on in my military career how to become comfortable in the total darkness of an unfamiliar environment.

Night vision goggles are awesome. This US military technology helps to make Rangers more successful at night. However, without exception, nothing made me feel safer and more successful at night than a Specter Gunship.  

My children grew up hearing that a Ranger’s best friend at night is the AC-130- Specter Gunship.

Artist rendering of the AC-130 Specter Gunship

This Lockheed platform has some of the most impressive weapons in the skies. Its ability to turn low circles over a target for hours allows it to place precision munitions just about anywhere a Ranger needs it. However, for me, one of the most comforting features of this aircraft is its spotlight.

When viewed through the right lenses, that powerful night vision light literally turns darkness into daylight.  During countless dark, scary combat missions, the AC-130 has been a “security blanket” reminding me that I’m not alone on the battlefield.

What’s above me is more powerful than what’s before me

There have been occasions in combat where I have been vastly outnumbered by enemy forces. Without the help of the Specter gunship, I would not have survived. That flying friend 3,000 meters over my head was a constant reminder that the friends above me are far more powerful than the foe in front of me!

I’m reminding you of this fact because sometimes we find ourselves in dark and scary situations. Oftentimes we can feel alone and isolated with no hope for the future. Maybe you find yourself in a moment where you are facing nothing but uncertainty and difficulty.

I need to remind you of the relationship between light and darkness.

Darkness always retreats in the presence of light.  There is no situation in nature where darkness is more powerful than a single light. The Bible reminds readers of this law of nature in John 1:5. (That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it.)

You also can “own the night”

I hope at this point you can see some very obvious spiritual parallels. You don’t have to be a US Army Ranger on the battlefield with an AC-130 gunship over your head. You too can own the night. Jesus doesn’t want his people to live in fear – even fear of the unknown or fear of a dark, scary night.  

He made this clear when he was leaving earth to return to his Father in Heaven.  When he commissioned his church and sent his disciples into a dark, scary world, he reminded them that he is with us always (everywhere we go) in Matthew 28:20.

Let me take a moment to remind you of three powerful truths for every Christian: 

1. You are never alone.  God’s Holy Spirit is present with you everywhere you go. 

2. God is bigger than your problems.  The One that watches over you is much stronger than the enemy that is before you.

3. You have no need to fear the unknown.  Our great God goes before you. He can shine the light of his glory on any situation.  He can turn your spiritually darkest nights into glorious days.  And one day, in Heaven, there will be no more night, because the light of the glory of God will push back darkness forever!

So, rest easy tonight, Christian.  Don’t fear the dark.  In fact, go into the dark places and push back darkness for the glory of God.  If you want to know more about how 2 Cities Church pushes back darkness, check out our most recent sermon from John 1:1-5.

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