Selective Deafness

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

Whenever some plane crash is reported, one of the first parts of the conversation centers around trying to retrieve the black box. This black box contains both instrument readings and the pilots’ conversation just before the plane crashed. It is very, very important.

The inventor of the black box, David Warren, died recently. Much has come to light about his discovery of this very useful instrument in air travel.

David Warren’s parents were missionaries on an island off northeastern Australia. His father died in an air disaster. The last gift he gave his son was a ham radio. That whetted his appetite for this great discovery.

He had to work against all kinds of skepticism and ridicule to create his device. He was from Australia, and after receiving his Ph.D. in chemistry, he went to work for the Australian Defense Department doing aeronautical research. The department lent him to a panel investigating civilian air crashes.

When he volunteered to work on developing a flight-recording system, he was immediately put down. Mr. Warren remembered his boss saying, “If I find you talking to anyone, including me, about this matter, I will have to sack you.”

Warren faced immense opposition. He was told that if it would be a helpful invention, the Americans would have already made it. The Australian civilian aviation authorities said it had “no immediate significance.” The military said it would yield “more expletives than explanations.” The pilots’ union called it a sinister way to spy on them.

Warren always insisted that he did not invent the black box – for the simple reason that he painted it red. Today’s black boxes remain red or orange to make them easier to find in wreckage. It doesn’t matter what color it is – the flight box does what it was created to do!

Today’s black boxes are indestructible. I have a friend who has always wondered why they don’t build the whole airplane out of the same material they use to build the black box!

I am sure glad David Warren was persistent. It reminds me that many of the great inventions of the world came about because folks refused to listen to naysayers who said it couldn’t be done. I am discovering that great leaders are people who can practice “selective deafness.” They don’t listen to negative, discouraging, project-stopping opinions.

Read Nehemiah 6. As Nehemiah’s success at rebuilding the wall was becoming evident, the naysayers organized. Sanballet, Tobiah and Geshem came to him five times to stop him. They had used intimidation, misinformation, accusations, etc., but Nehemiah refused to stop. He said, “I am doing a great work and can’t come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” (v. 3) And remember – he finished the wall in 52 days. (v. 15)

When God calls you to do something, practice “selective deafness” to those who would try to discourage and stop you, and persistently proceed with “mono audio” to God’s voice!

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