I am fresh off of two international flights: one five hour flight and the other a whopping forteen hours. We were off to a bit of a rough start, our Airbus shook and rolled around the tarmac during takeoff, and I couldn’t look away from the seam along the top of the cabin that buckled with each bump. This particular plane was also equipped with an outside camera that allowed passengers to watch the nose of the plane from above during the flight, and this feature only served to ratchet up my nerves as it revealed just how much we were at the mercy of the wind and weather.
I clutched my armrest with one hand and my guy’s fingers with the other, and breathed those deep “calming” breaths of the neurotic. I imagined how I would cope when we began our inevitable freefall that would precipitate our eventual crash–I would scream hysterically and cry inconsolably and lean in to the restraint of my seatbelt and brace for impact. The people who sat calmly around me, settling in to their cat naps or in-flight movies, they would be caught unawares, but I would be ready.
Obviously, this is an exhausting way to spend 19 hours in the air. And my plane did not crash, if you were wondering.
It’s interesting how worry can make one feel in control. Expecting the worst and endeavoring to be mentally prepared for the fruition of those expectations leaves one with the sense of, “I did what I could.” And we are called to such mental preparation. 1 Peter 5:8 warns us to “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” We are instructed in 1 Thessalonians 5:6 to “be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded.” Jesus warned his disciples, “But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)
And this is often how I rationalize my fixation on things I cannot control: there is suffering in life. Spiritual warfare is real. My sin nature has not fully been eradicated within me. Pain and struggle will come. Therefore, if I focus on these things now, maybe I will be equipped to take them in stride each time they come to me. The problem is, in this choreography, I am the sole conductor. I acknowledge my weakness, but forget His power. I am my own first line of defense; I forget my protector and guide. I fail to acknowledge that where I am not enough for the difficult things yet to be encountered, the ONLY One who see me through Is my Maker and Savior.
What is honoring to God? Not our rumination, but our obedience. Not our pessimism, but our hope. Not our worry, but our trust. I am learning that so many of the things that I do out of “piety” are not honoring to God at all, but just another way I make myself the ruler of my life. This is what it means to be prepared–to grow a robust instinct of clinging to Jesus only.
May our God make us prepared, alert, sober-minded, ready–not of our own sense of control and calculation, but through trust and surrender to His plan, His guidance, and His hope.
And pray for me as I put this into practice on my 19-hour flight home.