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Michelle Warner

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Flying Fearlessly Through Life

Posted on November 29th, 2010

Monday Morsel

sometimes random.
sometimes deep.
just a little something
to begin your week.

While aboard my last flight, it didn’t take long to remember how much I dislike flying. The tedious bumps. The extreme height. The rough landing. Honestly, there are not many aspects about flying that I do enjoy except that I am quickly transported from one location to another. After one huge bump and another string of turbulent air pockets, I turned my energy toward reflecting more deeply about the lessons I could learn from flying.  As I sat strapped in my seat, I peered out at the clouds and pondered the parallels between life and flying.

1)      Roll with the bumps

When flying, I have a tendency to tighten every muscle the moment the plane encounters the slightest turbulence. Instead of viewing the bumps as harmless air pockets, I can immediately decide that we are headed for an emergency landing. However, after many successful airplane flights, I have come to the conclusion that the many bumps during the flight most likely are not signaling an inescapable trauma. Instead, they are simply a part of flying in the open skies.

Similarly, I am also realizing that life is full of bumps as well. Emotional days when trusting seems next to impossible. Health scares that send you to your knees. Inconveniences that interrupt your plans. Arguments that disrupt the peace. Disappointments that steal your joy. Instead of allowing these bumps to completely ruin my day or week, I am learning to roll with them and accept that hard days are part of the journey. In fact, Scripture says there are good results in persevering through the bumps: “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:5-7).

2)      Give up control

I pinpointed the root of some of my fear during my last flight. Bottom line: I don’t like feeling out of control. As a result, when I experience turbulence, I clench my jaw and default to the same practice I do when I am afraid: worry. Clearly, this isn’t a healthy or productive approach to handling my fear but when the plane hits the rough patch of air, there is nothing I can do in seat 23B to control the situation and help the pilot in the seemingly near-death experience. (A little dramatic, I know.) Somehow playing out the possible scenarios in my mind and contemplating the what-ifs trick me into thinking I am controlling what is completely out of my hands. I realized on my last fight that my role as the passenger is not to guide the plane into safety; it’s to ride in my seat from point A to point B and enjoy the trip as best I can.

I can’t tell you how many times this stress-inducing scenario has played out in my every day life. In the past, although I knew intellectually that I could trust God, I fell for the lie that I could control the unknown outcome of a situation by processing through every possible scenario. That way I was prepared for the worst of circumstances. However I am learning that worrying in this way does not aid me in preparing for an unforeseen outcome; it just makes me feel wound-up and at times a bit crazy. And it certainly doesn’t honor God.

I read an insight about this subject a couple of years ago that I have never forgotten. Author Elyse Fitzpatrick wrote about worst-case scenarios that we create in our minds:

You know, the problem with fears that exist only in our imagination is that, since they aren’t real, we must face them alone. God’s grace isn’t available to help us overcome imaginary problems that reside only in our mind. He will help us to put these imagined fears to death, but it’s only in the real world that His power is effective to uphold us in trouble. It’s only when He calls us to actually go through difficult times that His power is present to protect, comfort, and strengthen us (Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety, pg 46).

When I first read this, I was taken aback because I do believe that God’s grace is always available to us. However, the more I thought and prayed about the author’s words, I realized what she was saying: When I allow my mind to entertain fearful imaginations, I am not inviting God into that moment. I am not “taking every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5) and instead am allowing Satan to intimidate me with frightening made-up outcomes. Fitzpatrick is imploring us to live in the reality where God gives us “everything we need” (2 Peter 1:3) instead of in our imaginary world where we scare ourselves into a tizzy. And although I may think I am helping to control the situation, I am allowing my fear to distract myself from being present in my real-life events.

3)      Trust the pilot

Remaining calm when the plane encounters turbulence and giving up the control all depends on trusting the pilot. If I fear that he is not capable of flying the plane, relaxing on the flight will be nearly impossible. When doubts of the pilots’ ability creep into my mind, I remind myself of his credentials; he completed rigorous flight school and has logged many hours on practice and real flights. All I can do as the passenger is sit back and trust that the pilot’s knowledge and experience will enable him to guide my plane safely to its destination.

And it’s the exact same way with God. I need to trust Him as the Pilot of my life because His experience is immeasurable and His credentials are unmatched and unfathomable. While I was writing this, I recalled Max Lucado writing about the same topic in his book Fearless.

Whether or not storms come, we cannot choose. But where we stare during a storm, that we can. I found a direct example of this truth while sitting in my cardiologist’s office…I quickly noticed the doctor’s abundant harvest of diplomas. They were everywhere, from everywhere…The more I looked at his accomplishments, the better I felt. I’m in good hands…In between paragraphs of bad news, I looked at the wall for reminders of good news. That’s what God wants us to do…We’re to counterbalance [the overwhelming challenges that life brings] with long looks at God’s accomplishments…God has hung His diplomas in the universe. Rainbows, sunsets, horizons, star-sequined skies. He has recorded His accomplishments in Scripture. We’re not talking six thousand hours of flight time. His resume includes Red Sea openings. Lions’ mouths closing. Goliath topplings. Lazarus raisings. Storm stillings and strollings. His lesson is clear. He’s the commander of every storm. Are you scared in yours? Then stare at Him. This may be your first flight. But it’s certainly not His. Your Pilot has a call sign too: I am Here (pgs 72-76).

As I finish this post, Christmas music is streaming through my computer and I am reminded again of God’s ultimate accomplishment. If He can send His sinless Son into our broken world to bring us eternal wholeness and life, He can certainly carry us through frightening flights, troubling circumstances, and unmet expectations. May this truth penetrate into our souls this season and remind us of all that He is and all that He can do.

“For a child has been born—for us!
the gift of a Son—for us!
He’ll take over the running of the world.
His names will be:
Amazing Counselor,
Strong God,
Eternal Father,
Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness He brings.”
Isaiah 9:6, The Message

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