It’s not a big secret to those who know me well that I absolutely hate flying. It’s not the lines, the tight seating, or the occasionally rude airline staff. It’s fear. Every bump and dip has me white knuckling the arm rests. As the plane descends and we get closer to that runway my breathing evens out and with touchdown my muscles relax again. I sink back into my seat and breathe a sigh of relief and peace – the first deep breath since first boarding the plane.
A couple years ago I had to fly to Tennessee for a speaking engagement. The two flights to get there, while short, were some of my worst. We took off in the middle of a thunderstorm and never flew out of the rough weather. The ride was bumpy and jolting. My palms were wet and my heart was thundering out of my chest. I wanted desperately to talk to someone to get my mind off the flight, but the business man seated next to me was sound asleep. So I took out my Bible to read something comforting but the words just kept dancing around the page. I gave up and fixed my gaze on the window.
You see, when I fly my preference is the window seat. There is something very comforting to me about looking out that tiny window to see the clouds as a steady white line below us. When the plane feels like it’s lurching and dipping and bumping its way through the sky, I can look out and see we are cruising just fine – that white line is steady and straight below. In my moments of greatest fear, I look out the window and see that all is fine regardless of how rough things feel.
Lately all I’ve had are aisle seats.
Sometimes my seatmates like to look out the window too, and I can look past them at that white line of clouds when I need to. But usually I’m seated next to seasoned business men who fly every week and just want to sleep through the flight. They board, the shade goes down, and I’m left blind. In the dark. Unable to look out when I want that comforting knowledge that everything is okay.
Sometimes the shade is left open but we’re flying through the clouds instead of over them and my visibility is blocked again. It’s rough, bumpy, and I can’t see if everything is okay or not. These are my moments of greatest fear, and my moments of deepest faith.
I’m reminded of the story in Matthew 14, of Jesus walking on water. Since they didn’t have airplanes in those days, I like to imagine that being in a boat that’s being tossed around the sea by a storm is comparable to particularly bad airplane turbulence. That’s exactly where Jesus’s disciples find themselves one night. There source of comfort – their white puffy line of horizon against the big blue sky – is hidden from view. Then they see a figure walking on water and they are terrified, until they hear his voice.
When Peter steps out of the boat and onto the water in faith he keeps his eyes fixed on Jesus for a few steps. But the wind and the waves rose and he lost focus. The horizon slipped from view and he found himself sinking and panicking. With a final, desperate plea he calls out to Jesus for rescue. Peter’s response shows the contents of my own heart well: it’s far easier for me to trust God when I can see clearly and the winds are calm.
But, God doesn’t open the shade and give me a a constantly clear view of the horizon. I have no idea how tomorrow will turn out. Sometimes the sun is shining, everything is fine, and when I look out the window I see puffy white clouds. I rest assured that I’m doing alright. But sometimes life takes a dip and the once steady surface beneath me starts shaking.
My child begins struggling and I can’t figure out how to help him. Ministry gets hard and our church family starts buckling under the stress. Relationships fracture and there’s a tension in my marriage I can’t explain. Mounting medical bills threaten our once solid finances and a friend is diagnosed with cancer. My circumstances feel overwhelming and all consuming.
How will this turn out? Will this crash and burn and fail miserably? Will my heart be broken? Will things be okay?
And those are the moments in life that I have to trust through my fear that God is near, because if I don’t – if I focus on the turmoil around me rather than the Savior in front of me – I slip into panic just like Peter.
My trust cannot be in a line of white puffy clouds – what I can see or even what I feel, but in the One who made the clouds. He is the same God who holds me whether I am flying below, through, or above the clouds. He is the same God in the stormy skies (and seas) as He is on dry land.
Through my fear I have to remember to trust the One who makes my flight path both bumpy and smooth and sometimes re-routes me but always brings me home safely… even if it wasn’t my original definition of “safe” or “home.”
But my eyes are fixed on You, Sovereign LORD; in You I take refuge… — Psalm 141:8
Excerpted with permission from It’s Okay About It by Lauren Casper, copyright Lauren Casper.
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God is near you. He never leaves. He never looks away. Through the bumpy or the smooth seasons, even when the view is cloudy and you have no idea what tomorrow holds, Jesus is with you and me. Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full