Flying the Not So Friendly Skies

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I took a flight to Dallas recently.  That sounds so simple and unimportant really, BUT if you understood that flying makes me a nervous wreck, you might perk up a little and feel sorry for me.  You know it probably wouldn’t be worth noting that flying makes me jittery, it makes a lot of people that way, but my husband happens to be a pilot; flying is what he does for a living, so there’s that… 

I can hear you now, like so many others, saying, “Wow, your husband is a pilot?  You must love to travel.”

Well, the answer to that is yes, I do, love to travel, that is.  But getting from point A to point B is the part I don’t love. 

This year I’ve been focusing on joy and learning to walk in it.  Sounds simple enough, but joy can be a little tricky.  I’m not talking about finding happiness, which is situational and changes with the wind, but real sustaining joy; something that runs like a river in the depths of my heart nurturing everything it touches.  I want that.

I’ve found that the more I stay in God’s word, the deeper and more refreshing my joy is.

As I dig deeper into God’s word I find myself at a crossroads in my spirit.  To grow I am going to have to make some tough decisions, most of them involving facing my fears.  And that brings me to last week where if found myself sitting in an airport getting ready to board a plane.

It was kind of a big week for us as my husband was getting a “promotion” and I was invited by the company to fly out and join him for the first few days of training as they welcomed us to the “family.”  I was so excited, the only thing that stood between me and a special time with my husband was an hour and a half plane ride.

Determined to face this fear and not live imprisoned by it, I checked my luggage at the counter, grabbed my boarding pass, made my way through security, walked the long trek to my gate at the end of the small airport and took a seat.   Only an hour before the flight was to take off, one long hour to fill my mind with something other than fearful thoughts.

It wasn’t long until a group of young men gathered by the gate, they were United States Marines, at least that’s what their back packs said.  Of course, their freshly cut very short hair was a clue that they were probably in one of the armed forces. I am a self-declared people watcher and as I craned my neck around to check out the folks around me, I witnessed a very emotional scene as a mother said goodbye to her son. That was such a heart gripping moment.  He looked so young and he was so very sweet to his mom. She held on to him for dear life until she HAD to let go and I cried with her from afar as she watched him walk away.  I was completely emotionally invested in what had just unfolded before me when the gate agent called my group number to board.

Was it time already?

I took a deep breath, picked up my purse, produced my boarding pass, headed down the narrow jet bridge and stepped onto the airplane.

My breathing was shallow and my heart was aflutter, but I walked down the narrow aisle and took my seat like everyone else, pretending like everything was fine.  I’d been watching the weather (more like stalking the weather app) and I knew it had been raining in Dallas and was supposed to keep right on raining the whole night through.  I know from past flying experiences rainy weather pretty much guarantees turbulence, and that made my stomach tighten.

After we’d sat on the tarmac for quite a while the captain came on the loud speaker and in muffled tones explained to us we were getting more fuel because we’d been rerouted due to the weather.  He also explained the flight would be about thirty minutes longer because of it. 


I cinched my seatbelt a little tighter and continued to look out the window at the bustling airport to distract my thoughts.

And then, finally, it was time to take off.

Just as I’d expected, the ride was rough, and according to the captain it wasn’t going to get any better.

Why, oh why is it so hard to face our fears?  And why does it feel like they keep coming back?  I had just faced this flying thing a few months earlier, I thought I had made some progress and the next time I flew wouldn’t feel so difficult. But, no, here I sat gripping the arm rests with all of the same fears gripping my heart and mind.

Feeling this way was nothing new, sadly.

Half way through the flight and the seat belt sign went off momentarily only to be illuminated again within minutes.  Here I was bouncing around the skies, stomach in knots, throat tightened when the captain said words you never want to hear, “Flight attendants, take your seats.”  As if saying once it weren’t enough, he said again, with more urgency in his voice, “FLIGHT ATTENDANTS, TAKE YOUR SEATS.” 

At this point I was white knuckling the arm rests.  Everyone else around me looked so calm.  I wanted to stand up and yell out, “what is wrong with you people, can’t you see we’re all going to DIE?!”  But, instead I just sat there in a sitting corpse pose, only moving to blink.

I hate feeling afraid.

I wonder when this fear first took root. I wonder how many small decisions I made that caused it to grow and become a healthy tree right in the middle of my heart. I’m not really sure I remember a time when I wasn’t afraid, maybe when I was a kid and we used to play in the sugar cane fields.  Fear rarely entered my mind then, oh to have those days back!  Unfortunately, as life has unfolded it’s taught me to fear even more.  Some folks take their frightful, life changing experiences and use them as fuel to overcome; not me.  I use mine as an excuse to stay safe and in my comfort zone as much as possible.

It’s too scary to keep putting myself out there over and over again only to be hurt, and no one wants to live with a tense stomach and fluttering heart constantly anyway.   

But, as I continue in my daily reading of the Word, I am challenged again and again to trust.  Ugh.  I know where this is headed, trust involves facing my fears.  And facing my fears feels a lot like my terrified stomach on that plane a few nights ago as we bobbled around the “friendly” skies. 

It wasn’t fun and I know facing deeply rooted fears isn’t going to be fun either.

After the captain made his announcement for the flight attendants to “be seated,” I proceeded to put my head between my knees and pray like my life depended on it.   Seriously, because in that moment, I kind of felt like my life might actually depend on it.

I cannot even imagine what I must’ve looked like.  I know the guy across the aisle had some stories to tell his family when he got off the plane. I was never gladder for a flight to come to an end as I was that stormy night.  I thanked the Lord repeatedly as I deplaned and nearly ran off the jet bridge into the Dallas airport.  My husband was waiting for me and I was never more thankful to see him.

The next thought that came to mind as stood in line to order a late supper was, “now I have to get back home.”

To be continued next week…

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