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"Applying the Word of God at 35,000 Feet"
by Barbara Smith

Do you know the feeling of being completely out of control? Have you ever felt you were so out of control, that worrying about your lack of control would be pointless? I do, every time I go anywhere that involves air transportation.

When the inescapable day for air travel arrives, a wave of helplessness washes over my heart. Nonetheless, I boldly place my baggage on a conveyer belt, believing the airline's promises to return them. If God wants me to see my toothbrush and clean clothes again , I do believe I will.

Promptly, another wave of impotence swells, as hundreds of other passengers crowd past me. Maintaining control over my life now is useless. I can't fly a plane! So arguing, whining or complaining about the details of my situation looks silly. As I approach a brightly colored metal cage with wings, the feeling of impending powerlessness revs up in my heart, just as the jet's engines begin to whir.

After years of warning the kids never to accept rides from strangers, what have I done? I relinquished control of myself to strangers -- maybe even a strange computer -- as I boarded the jet plane, passively following my family.

I squeeze into the ever-narrowing seat and struggle to secure the seat belt. Now a revelation roars through my mind. I am paying the airline a huge amount of money to hurl my husband, my and me almost 35,000 feet above the earth. What's more, I am wagering my life that the pilot, a total stranger, can land this multi-ton baby on a square of concrete, possibly shrouded by fog, thousands of miles away.

Presently, as the plane taxis into position, the panic literally accelerates with the speed of take-off. I remember that the pilot is going to be operating this aircraft, not me. While I KNOW I don't know how a plane flies, I wonder if the pilot really does either!

Speeding down the runway, I draw a long breath. I am convinced I am only a millisecond from seeing the other side of eternity. What sane person would believe they were in control of their lives at this point? Exhaling, I think of nothing but submission to God, and how poorly I do it, even now.

Lift-off, and I am limp. I have spotted the emergency exits, but I also see the cabin attendants have blocked the aisles with heavy metal carts, dispensing what might be my last meal. Stifling a shriek, I recognize that my hysteria would not clear the aisles.

Feigning complacency so I do not freak my children or embarrass my husband, I am confident I would win - hands down - an "Oscar" if there were a category for "Best Performance in Faking Composure on a Transcontinental Flight." A few in-air jolts and I grasp this truth as never before: Aerodynamic engineers are deluded. Only the will of God keeps me from plunging to a fiery death - not equations.

My daughter keeps looking over at me. "Breathe, Mom!" she hisses.

I thought I was succeeding in keeping my uneasiness to myself, quietly counting the time until touch down. However, when the passenger ahead of me reclines the seat almost into my nose, I toy with the idea of opening, then slamming my tray table shut in exasperation. But that will not get me an inch more space, and my daughter is watching my reaction. (See what I mean about the "Oscar?")

As we level off, my legs soon begin to throb from their restricted positions and my back commences to grouch about the stiff narrow seat. Reaching for a book hurts. Economy does have some hidden costs.

If it is a smooth flight, my panic subsides, but not the truth that I am not in control. When turbulence develops, I do remember to breathe and then close my eyes. Seeing this immense silver bird resting in God's hand in my mind's eye, I wonder, "Has He jostled it to get my attention? God alone can lift the plane over the clouds and winds that shake it."

Thoughts of the eternal remain my traveling companions. As the engines decelerate and the plane gradually begins its descent, the emotion of powerlessness again swells. If I couldn't fly this plane, how much more am I certain I couldn't land it. Now I know helpless dependency because I know I could not engineer the safe flight of a feather. Having relinquished my physical safety to the hands of someone I do not know, I rest in the assurance that I do know the one who controls my flight plan.

We hit Terra Firma at a high speed, and the feeling of powerlessness, helplessness and dependence on God alone recedes. Gravity allows me to reassert control over my surroundings. I now feel free to evaluate the pilot's landing: too fast, too high, etc. Reconnecting with earth, the fallacy that I am back in the driver's seat, so to speak, expands. I speed back into the illusion that I can shape my future, even change it, by scolding, worrying or complaining.

Before I completely forget, however, what's the lesson? Flying reminds me just how powerless I am in a world that prizes control, self-confidence and self-esteem. Flying shows me how to completely let go of the reins of my life -- and the reigns of my husband's and my children's lives -- and put them in the hands of Another. Air travel has a spiritual component -- it reminds me to take seriously Christ's offer to bear my burdens and guide my path. Trying to do everything myself only guarantees an unnecessarily bumpy flight.

  • Would I argue with the reservations clerk or the captain of the jet about the destination, arrival time and how much luggage I can take? Yet, I freely fuss when God's travel plans for my life don't suit me.
  • Would I refuse to follow safety rules aboard a jumbo jet just to prove I am in charge of my life? Yet, I willfully ignore instructions in God's operation manual, the Bible.
  • Would I squawk and make a general nuisance out of myself because I was uncomfortable on a crowded flight? Yet, I carelessly complain in other settings. At times, no one in our family could miss the message "if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!"
  • Finally, would I blame anyone but myself if I ignored the "fasten seat belt" sign and turbulence threw me around the cabin without warning? Yet, I fuss with God because I've skipped devotions and prayer for trifling reasons, only to be tossed about unprepared during a grueling day.
Traveling by air is a great picture of my inability to control my circumstances, and God's ability to keep 250+ lives safely aloft and then land them in one piece. Air travel illustrates the faith God wants for me; to put all my trust in the Christ who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20). He has bought my ticket and assigned my seat -- and my husband's and my children's. He knows my destination, and flight plan, even through stormy skies, and the precise E.T.A. I can even leave baggage at home because God will supply what I need. I do need to "buckle" in, however, because turbulence is sometimes part of the plan. (Ephesians 6: 10-14)

He knows how to dodge any thunder head. (John 16:33 ) And though I may not "see" the Captain until the end of the flight, He has a clear view of me. He will bring me safely home -- even if I crash in a man-made plane.

Taken from:
Growing Up Homeschooling,
(or learning what we wanted the kids to take to heart)

Due Summer, 1998
Pre-publication order from:
Third Floor Publishing
PO Box 827
Arnold, MD 21012
$8.95 plus 3.00 postage (Maryland residents add 5% MD sales tax)

© Barbara W. Smith 1998, all rights reserved
Permission is given to reprint any of Barbara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and Web site address.

Please send a copy of the publication to:
Third Floor Publishing
PO Box 827
Arnold, MD 21012

We hope our thoughts encourage you in the Lord Jesus Christ who has enabled us to do exceedingly abundantly more than we could have asked or imagined -- please let us know what YOU think. E-mail us at workbook@toad.net. (Please don't forget to include your e-mail address with in the body of the message--we've had some of our responses returned due to insufficient e-mail addresses.)


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Barbara & Douglas Smith
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Hebrews 6:19

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