Flights of Faith: Embracing the Spiritual Side-Effects of Fear
Flying didn’t used to bother me. For years, I reveled in taking off from one city and ending up in another. I didn’t think twice about crossing oceans to see things and meet people I’d only known through books, photos and maybe even phone calls.
I didn’t worry too much about crashes. Flying, I knew, was reportedly the safest way to travel. But if I did die en route to or coming home from somewhere wonderful, well, what better way to go?
During the last decade or so, I believed I had come to terms with the reality of death. I looked forward to the opportunity to be born into a new life eternal, one filled with love and indescribable joy. God would take me when the time was right, after I had accomplished the things I needed to accomplish here on Earth. I felt like I was in complete control no matter what happened.
The sudden death of my mother in January struck an excruciating blow to the peace I thought I had cultivated. There was nothing I could have done to change the fact that my mother was ripped from this world before I was ready to say goodbye. And the lack of control I had over the situation was breathtaking. I suddenly realized how powerless I truly was, how vulnerable we all are, as human beings. We hope and plan and build and acquire, putting our trust in things that can turn to dust in the blink of eye, the beat of a heart.
A few years ago, my husband and I were flying from Germany to the Czech Republic, plunging through space in a tiny plane tens of thousands of feet from the ground. We hit a pocket of turbulence, and I was suddenly made aware how unnatural it was to be strapped into what is essentially a missile.
Prague was magical and wonderful and everything it was supposed to be, but I couldn’t shake that feeling of terror that overcame me when I realized what it really meant to fly on a plane.
During a recent trip to Paris and Southeast Asia, I was forced to face my fears over and over, praying to God to surround me with angels and deliver me safely to my destination. But flight after flight after flight, my capacity for true faith seemed just out of reach. I was at the mercy of my fear and realized how attached I am to my body.
Control. It’s something I cling to and falsely believe I can count on—until I’m in an airplane. At 30,000 feet, my lack of control is palpable and terrifying. It is in those moments that I pray most fervently, most fiercely and most purely. And that in itself is a great blessing. There is nothing more frightening, comforting and exhilarating than being face to face, breath to breath with mortality. So I fly. As afraid as it makes me, I fly, journeying towards exotic destinations on this planet and, praying that in the event of catastrophe, I will be carried to the Kingdom Come.
One day, my spirit will be torn from my body, going against God’s plan for His creation. And I have no idea when that day will be. But I take great comfort in knowing that when Christ comes again, body and soul will be reunited, fulfilling mankind’s destiny to be complete physical and spiritual beings. No seeming tragedy can change that Truth. And that’s what I think about when I’m flying, reminding myself to take comfort in the journey. My flight is already safe, no matter what happens in the air.
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