I fly way too much. I have amassed nearly five million airline miles over the past twenty-five years of traveling. That is a lot of bad omelettes, delays, and bruised knees from incredibly unaware passengers who recline their seat backwards at warp speed. But there is one part of flying that still fills me with awe.
Take-offs on cloudy, nasty days always reveal the nervous flyers. As the plane thunders down the runway and rises into a soupy overcast mix the nervous flyers grip the armrest tightly and glance anxiously out the window. Nerves are not soothed by seeing nothing but gray through the tiny portals. These takeoffs are usually accompanied by bumps, shudders, and stomach churning drops. The pilots always cheerfully glosses over the turbulence ahead. “We will have a little light chop as we head out”, the captain tells us before takeoff. Not long after lift off you begin wondering what “heavy chop” might feel like. Today was one of those takeoffs. The North Texas skies were dark and we bounced through the expected turbulence of spring weather. Trust me, that is not the part that creates awe everytime I experience it.
Stormy airplane travel seemed a fitting metaphor for the past year of the journey with the striking Mrs.Burchett. It has been just over a year since we heard the word that changed us forever.
Few words have more gut punching power than the “C” word. Looking back I can see that our journey through Joni’s breast cancer treatments in many ways paralleled a stormy takeoff. Just like the captain of our plane, Joni and I faced the inevitable clouds ahead with limited visibility. We could not begin to see what we faced in the coming months. The captain trusted his instruments and had faith in them to direct the flight safely. We trusted our God and the doctors as we took off in darkness to travel through our cancer journey. As the airplane hit the bumps the pilot did not let off the power in fear. In fact, bad weather often requires more power to offset the wind gusts. Joni and I learned that we had to similarly go full throttle with optimism, hope, and trust in a God who is sovereign and trustworthy. We determined to do our part and rest in Jesus. Cancer is hard. The burden is heavy. But Jesus made it easier to bear.
I will not try to claim that Joni and I have been giants of faith. We are not like the Top Gun pilots who never show fear and are always incredibly cool. We hated the turbulence. The bumps were nervewracking. Twice we hit huge bumps that knocked the emotional breath out of us.
A nervous flyer puts his or her faith in a pilot they almost surely don’t know. We put our faith in a Saviour that Joni and I know and trust.
But what about the part of stormy takeoff that still inspires awe? When you lift into the clouds you can’t see what lies ahead. The ride is bumpy and a little anxious (or maybe a lot anxious). And then it happens. You break through into awesome sunlight. There is nothing quite like that experience. The sunlight is breathtaking. It is hard to believe that moments ago you were in a confusing darkness. That is how Joni and I feel today. We have broken through the storm clouds of the past year into the sunlight of hope and life together. A nervous flyer wonders if they will ever clear the storm clouds. At times we felt the same way. We filed a flight plan based on a God who is Worthy. I am not sure exactly how we got through the clouds. I just know that God was there for every bump and shudder along the way.
If you are flying through turbulence remember that sunlight may be just ahead. Go full throttle with the power of a God who cares. Don’t back off in fear. Rejoice in the trial because it can refine you and equip you for service. And I pray that you soon will rejoice as you break through dark clouds into magnificent sunlight.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com