So yesterday I flew to my mom’s in Arizona. My journey, however, began in a car. A friend drove me to the airport. We arrived surprisingly early and it didn’t take too much effort to pry my fingernails from the seatbelt that I had been gripping to keep me secure. I am a horrible passenger, and that is putting it mildly. Weaving through the heavy morning traffic had my heart doing all kinds of flip flops.
Flying has not been too different an experience. I am only an occasional traveler, so I have never acquired that calm demeaner that seems to waft from those who saunter through airports with ease and confidence. I’m constantly checking for my ticket, watching the arrival departure screens, getting to the gate ridiculously early, and praying. The whole process is one long continuous prayer vigile. I try to go with the flow and fake outwardly that I know what I’m doing, but I’m well aware that my nervous giggle gives me away every time. It causes me to truly understand and engage in Paul’s adominition to pray without ceasing.
The serious praying for me really begins as the plane begins to taxi down the runway and occurs again when I feel the jolt of the landing gear emerging as we prepare for landing. At these critical junctures in the flight I realize I need to be keenly prepared to meet my God, so I pray. These prayers are foxhole prayers at there finest.
The first leg of my journey was a quick jaunt from Columbus to Chicago O’Haire. Approaching Chicago something happened that I have never experienced before. I looked out my window and saw that we were about to swing out over the lake to head the plane toward the airport and all of a sudden I had this sensation of floating, of weightlessness, but also of being gently bouyed. It reminded me of a time when as a young child my mother was trying to teach me to float in a swimming pool. Initially she had her hands under me, holding me up. Slowly she would pull her hand away, but I could still feel it near. She was trying to teach me to trust that the water could hold me, but also that she was there catch me if I became afraid and started to go under.
In that moment in the plane I felt such peace. Gone was the frantic praying that normally would have begun as descended to the ground. I knew I was being given a gift and I just reveled in it silently, and thankfully.
And then we landed. And then we sat. Why wasn’t the plane moving? Didn’t the pilot know I had very little time to make it to my connecting flight? Who cares if the plane at the gate we’re assigned to hasn’t left yet? It’s a big airport, pick another one.
I felt myself starting to fret and stew. I’m so unaccustomed to traveling that I didn’t know what I would do if I missed my connection. Would I be able to get to Tucson? Would they have to honor my ticket or was I just out of luck? What was I going to do?
And then that little spiritual lightbulb went off in my head. I had been on the mountain and experienced a precious moment in the presence of my God just like the disciples had in the story of the Mount of Transfiguration (see Mark 9). They wanted to tary in the specialness of the moment, but had to return to real life, and as soon as they did things started to press on them and cause them to question, fret, and fuss. Just like me.
Sitting in my seat, waiting, I entered a quiet internal place and sought forgiveness for allowing the uncertainty of the moment to crowd in and make me forget that God’s hand was just as present on the ground as it was in the air. God isn’t just about the taking offs and landings, the big scary moments of life. No, he cares about it all, because he cares about me. And there, in that moment, I felt the peace that comes from releasing myself and my insane want of control over to the One who has called me and upholds me.
I have called you back from the ends of the earth so that you can serve me. For I have chosen you and will not throw you away. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am you God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:9-10, NLT