Guiding Lights in the Dark

The Captain’s Corner

It’s a dark, murky, rainy night. The cockpit crew members are intently following the flight instruments while descending on the approach to landing. Outside the windshield is nothing but blackness. At two hundred feet above the ground, the co-pilot is now looking outside the cockpit: “I have the lights,” he calls out.

The pilot looks up from her instrument panel and quickly discerns the bright approach lights leading to the runway.

“Lights in sight. Landing,” the pilot states.

The landing is accomplished safely through the final guidance of the approach lights extending a half mile out from the end of the runway.

You may wonder what these lights look like from the viewpoint of those in cockpit. Rows of red and white lights looking like rungs of a ladder are laid out one after another, starting from the end of the runway. About one-third of the way back from this point a horizontal row of lights—designed to show that the runway is fast approaching—extends beyond the vertical rows, forming the appearance of a lowercase letter T. This arrangement of lights is the same across the world. By simply following these guiding lights, a pilot can easily recognize the approach of a runway that he or she has never landed on before.

What I find fascinating and meaningful about this standardized system of lights is not their color or brightness but their configuration. The approach light system is shaped like a cross, pointing toward the end of the runway. This reminds me of Christ’s words in John 14:6: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Hymnwriter Jessie Pounds affirms this truth with her hymn, “The Way of the Cross Leads Home” (public domain):

I must needs go home by the way of the cross,
There’s no other way but this;
I shall ne’er get sight of the Gates of Light,
If the way of the cross I miss.

The way of the cross leads home,
The way of the cross leads home;
It is sweet to know, as I onward go,
The way of the cross leads home.

I must needs go on in the blood-sprinkled way,
The path that the Savior trod,
If I ever climb to the heights sublime,
Where the soul is at home with God.

Then I bid farewell to the way of the world,
To walk in it nevermore;
For my Lord says, “Come,” and I seek my home,
Where He waits at the open door.

What a wonderful truth from these guiding lights in the dark!


Joe Henderson, Brenda’s husband, is a retired international airline captain and now blogs in “The Captain’s Corner” on a regular basis.

Be sure to join us back here on Thursday for one of Brenda’s “Come on Over” recipes for entertaining.

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