My wife is not a fan of flying.
We recently returned from a “four take-offs / four landings” trip to the Northwest. As our seemingly prepubescent pilot loped by us in the skywalk – undoubtedly sporting Mountain Dew and Cheetos in his belly and some magazine with World of Warcraft cheat codes under his arm – the familiar pit resurrected in my wife's stomach. This child who should be guiding hurled newspapers towards unsuspecting rose bushes was instead going to be guiding a metal albatross with explosions strapped to its wings towards grumpy crosswinds and unforgiving mountain peaks.
At times like this, with all the subtlety of a late night dating service commercial, we are reminded of two truths that are as simple as they are elusive: (1) we are not in control and (2) there is always much more going on than we realize.
There are few experiences like flying that can make us feel LESS in control. As we hurtle down the runway, inching closer and closer to the point at which our massive jet-powered sausage casing with seat belts reaches the end of a runway with no “Plan B”, we realize that the only weapon in our arsenal by which we may offer assistance to the pilot and the laws of aerodynamics is the “concern rays” emanating from our foreheads (thank you, Dave Barry). Fly or not, our fate is now directly tied to elements beyond our influence and to “Opie the pilot”. Maybe we ought to relax. Maybe we ought to giggle when the g-forces push us back into our seats while we try to lift our now lead-filled extremities. Maybe we ought to be the ONE person on the flight to pay rapt attention to the guy standing in the aisle waving a not-to-scale restraining device while functioning as the last bastion of itchy polyester trousers. But that is not usually the way it happens.
Like it or not, phobias are what they are and at times they simply won't permit our lack of devotion. It is not until much later that the aviophobes among us are able to look back and appreciate the amazing realities that were swirling around them while raging circumstances dominated their thoughts. While pounding questions of the technological validity of air travel and “how much re-worked lunch can really fit in that little bag?” mount their offensive, what is missed is the incredible perspective of a once immense world becoming a maze of insects traversing a keenly mapped grid. Lost in our crowded mind is the very experience of our low-orbit spaceship gliding through the heavens with hundreds of stories strapped inside.
How often do we have the same approach to the infinite God? In His grace, He who holds it all together nudges us to remind us that we are gloriously not in control. If we will slow down long enough, we may even see that there is always much more going on around us than we realize. Like my 6 year-old son when he “drives” the family car into the driveway, we easily descend into happy little deities in a paper world where we wield ultimate power. Then God graciously throws off the timing as if to say, “Look. Isn't this amazing?” Do we realize that our story continues today because of a finely tuned spasm in the middle of our chest? Do we ponder the millions of processes firing in perfect precision that allow us to see words and assign meaning? What of the amazing instrumentation of a tiny little calcium hammer and flesh drum that afford us the joy of hearing an encouraging word or child's first giggle? Have you thanked God lately for your Nf1 gene? No? That's probably because you don't know that this gene in the infinite maze of your DNA prevents tumors from forming. Doctors can point out when it's MISSING, but few know to be amazed by its presence.
Amidst the storm of cares and concerns weighed on us as we vie for self-dominion, there is often a consistent whisper saying, “Stop. Look. Enjoy.” We're NOT in control. And it's fabulous.
[For a stellar treatise on God's amazing world that we routinely miss, I HIGHLY recommend picking up a copy of N.D. Wilson's book, “Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl” or the DVD bookumentary.]
[Below is a hilarious treatment of the wonder of flight by comedian Louis CK on the Conan O'Brien show (though you would be well-advised to avoid Mr. CK's uncensored stand-up material... you've been warned.)]