Book Review: Pulling Gs: Fighter Pilot Perspectives on Faith

pullinggsHugh Vest
CrossLink Publishing, 2014

Pulling Gs is a unique take on the application of the fighter pilot perspective to the Christian faith. Author Hugh “Huge” Vest is a retired USAF F-16 pilot who deftly takes stories from his vast experience in the fighter pilot world and relates them to similar experiences, joys, and struggles as a Christian.

In each chapter, Huge tells the tale of a significant fighter pilot event — some factual, some fun, some tragic — and then applies it as an analogy to living life and the Christian faith. Each chapter ends with thought-provoking “debrief” questions that encourage introspection and personal challenge.

For example, he describes the concepts and experiences of the eponymous “pulling Gs,” and then describes how people can assess the G-stresses in their own life. At the end of the chapter, Huge asks the reader to consider the stresses in their lives, their sources, and how they cope with them — and to consider if the Christian’s tools of hope and faith can increase their “g-tolerance.”

Huge’s analogies and his interconnection between the fighter pilot experience and the Christian walk are sincere and natural. They are amazingly very well done.

His stories are both accurate and compelling. Many fighter pilot references are similar to those in Christian Fighter Pilot is not an Oxymoron, though Huge generally avoids the “moral” aspects of the story addressed in Christian Fighter Pilot.  Huge’s goal is not to describe how to be a fighter pilot but to relate the experience to the Christian faith. His description of the squadron bar and its traditions is spot-on — down to the oft-found picture of Clint Eastwood or John Wayne on the wall. His discussion of the modern culture’s hostility toward Christianity is well-placed in context with a discussion on the persecution of Christ’s church in centuries past.

In one particular story, Huge talks about a unique “difficulty” in flying fighters: Fighter pilots are almost always so busy accomplishing their mission that they very rarely take “time out” to marvel at the world they can see from their “office window.” He’s absolutely correct. His two recollections that countered that trend — seeing the beauty of the Northern Lights while on an ocean crossing, and viewing the night sky through NVGs, revealing more stars than most people see in their lifetimes — are near-emotional events for the pilots who have shared those experiences. Huge used that experience to segue into a compelling discussion about how God craves our time with Him, and how we, as Christians, need to make the intentional effort to take “time out” from our busy missions to spend time with God.

There is occasional fighter pilot slang that will slip by the casual reader but will be quickly understood by aviators. On the other end of the extreme, Huge occasionally tries to explain fairly complex concepts in brief, simple terms, for good reason. For example, he gives a top-level explanation of the mechanics of how night vision goggles function so he can later explain the mechanics of how an analogous set of “God’s Goggles” would work.

In discussing his motivation to encourage others with his perspective on faith, Huge summarizes the high points of Pulling Gs:

We must debrief our life’s purpose, life presses down on us with G-forces, we must learn to trust our instruments in faith, see life through the Lord’s eyes, we need to understand our enemy’s tactics, we need to take time out to worship, we need to make discipleship personal, we need to get to know God’s flight manual, and we need to learn to serve and encourage others.

Pulling Gs is compelling and readable even for those without experience in the military or as pilots, yet it also has enough technical detail to be thrilling even for jaded fighter pilots (or any pilot). Of course, while the fighter pilot experience is an exciting part of the book, its core purpose is not to tell a flying story but to challenge and encourage Christians in the faith. Huge’s book easily achieves that aim, and it does so very well.

Pulling Gs is highly recommended and is available on Amazon.

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