I have had to take a few more plane trips than usual this past year. It seems to be getting easier. When I was young I had no fear of air travel. I think I can pinpoint when that started to change. At the time I was pregnant with my first child and teaching high school English. I was also helping out the school's choir as a piano accompanist. When they took a trip to a choral festival in Colorado, I was invited to go along. The return flight was one of the scariest I have ever experienced: extreme, bumpy turbulence with roller-coaster style ups and downs. Many of the students seemed oblivious, but I remember catching the eye of the choir director. He was nervous, too. I was never so glad to get off a plane.
Between that flight and becoming a mommy, my fear of flying got progressively worse for many years, to the point that if I knew I was going to fly I would ask the doctor to prescribe a medicinal aid. But in the last year it seems my fear has lessened slightly. Let me emphasize the word slightly. I am still a very nervous flyer. I experienced it again a few days ago flying to and from Oklahoma for our house-hunting weekend. I try very hard to hide my fear from the 10-year-old sitting next to me. But as soon as the plane starts to taxi I start to pray, and I pray until we're in the air and many more times during the rest of the flight. I think the root of my fear is the sense of powerlessness that comes with flying. I like to be in control. When you're on a plane, there is no control. You are at the mercy of the machine and the guy piloting it (not to mention the weather and the other people on the plane). There is nothing to do but sit, hope, wait, and pray until you are once again on solid ground.
I had the thought while flying this week that I could learn something about life from how I feel when I fly. You see, I have this silly notion that in my everyday life I'm in control--that I can do it without God. Whether it's attending to my various vocations or attending to my own salvation, I fall into the trap of thinking I can manage things myself. Once in a while my life's plane takes a nauseating dive and I remember how powerless I am. But when smooth sailing returns I again start thinking to myself, "I've got this."
But I don't have this, any more than I have the power to keep a real plane from crashing. I don't want to go through life with white knuckles, clutching the arm rests, stomach churning in fear at each little bump. But if I were to spend my days as I spend my time on planes, in fervent, unceasing prayer, maybe I would be able to relax and enjoy the view a little more often.