On Friday, November 30, Former President George H.W. Bush passed away at his home in Houston, Texas. Before becoming the 41st President of the United States, George Bush served as Vice President, as an Ambassador, as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and as a United States Congressional Representative.
In his remarks at the Capitol Rotunda this past Monday, Vice President Mike Pence recalled a letter the former president wrote to his son, a Marine aviator, and what it meant to his family. Just this past summer, his son received his commission as an aviator pilot, and the Vice President reached out to the office of George Bush asking if he could sign an autograph to give to his son. The former President’s office informed him that President Bush was no longer signing autographs as his health had deteriorated significantly over the past few months. Nonetheless, within a short period of time, a letter came from the former President. Vice President Pence said the following:
“In that letter, President Bush wrote to my son, in his words, ‘Congratulations on receiving your wings of gold. I know how proud you and your family are at this moment.’ And then in words that assured us that the letter came directly from him, he wrote, quote, ‘Though we have not met, I share the pride your father has for you during this momentous occasion, and I wish you many CAVU days ahead. All the best, G. Bush.’”
The Vice President went on to explain that the acronym, CAVU, is a term Navy pilots have used since World War II. It stands for “ceiling and visibility unlimited.” President Bush described CAVU, in his words, as the “kind of weather we Navy pilots wanted when we were to fly off our carrier in the Pacific.” And he once wrote a letter to his children, saying that CAVU, in his words, “describes my own life as it’s been over the years and as it is right now — ceiling and visibility unlimited.”
Not having served as a Navy pilot, this was the first time I’d heard of this acronym, but my mind immediately thought about how much this applies to our lives as followers of Christ. In him, we find a freedom that allows us to experience life without boundaries or limits. In Jesus, we are free from the sin that holds us down and clouds our visibility. With the Holy Spirit residing inside us, we have access to unlimited resources. We, of all people on the earth, truly have CAVU.
President Bush was a life-long Episcopal and open about his faith in Christ. As a follower of Christ, his greatest CAVU moment happened this past Friday night. For the first time, his visibility was without any limits. This is what Paul wrote about the believer’s state upon death:
In the same way, we can see and understand only a little about God now, as if we were peering at his reflection in a poor mirror; but someday we are going to see him in his completeness, face-to-face. Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now. 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NLT)
For our former President, the most important thing about his life was not his service to our nation, but his faith in Christ. On Friday night, he experienced completely clear visibility because of his decision to follow Christ. We who follow Christ look forward to this same experience.
Kevin Mills is the Lead Pastor of Northway Church in Macon, GA.