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I wanted to march right past the bourgeois first class luxury booth (you know, the one where they close the curtain so that everyone in coach can feel more like a piece of cargo than a human) and tell the stupid pilot to go around or above or even below it. Why do they choose to go right through it? My family and I are fresh off a trip to visit more family on the west coast. It was a refreshing oasis getting to see my sister, brother in-law, niece, and cousin at their comfy ranch-style abode in the stifling desert sun. The topper was watching my son and his little cousin reconnect, hug, run, hop on furniture, and jump around the backyard water sprinkler without a care in the world. The way they picked up right where they left off last summer was the kind of heartwarming you only see in Disney flicks. So all-in-all, I think the trip was a great one, the only downside being that we couldn’t stay longer. I just wish I could say the same about the flight home.

Aww man, if I had to rank this flight, it would be at the top of my worst-ever list. First of all, it was delayed four hours, and then again another 45 minutes. That part wasn’t too terrible I suppose, since it gave us some time to relax at the hotel and not rush breakfast, which we had originally planned to grab on the go. The big issue…was the turbulence. I’ve flown a number of times and had never experienced anything like it in my life!

I mean, I get it, we’re flying out of a mountainous area and take-off can be a little bumpier than normal — so I mentally prepared for that. What I was NOT prepared for was the rollercoaster ride that started at 15,000 ft altitude halfway through our trip. And before you heckle me about turbulence being in the fine print of the deal when one chooses to fly, let me remind you that no one signs up to be stuck in a 90,000 lb airborne tubular metal prison with uncontrollable shakes, dips that snatch the breath out of your chest, and bone-chilling sounds that resemble engine failure…unless they’re flying Con Air. LOL. I can laugh now but if it weren’t for the brave mask I tried to keep airbrushed on my face while clutching the hand of my squealing 6-year-old, I would have probably shed a tear. The only thing I could do was comfort him and pray to the Lord that this turmoil would end safely and soon.

Looking through the tiny window just past my son’s head, I didn’t trust myself to say anything out loud because the tremble in my voice would’ve swept away any crumbs of courage my son had left. But my thought bubbles went something like:

How do you decide the best place to make an emergency landing? Is there a large body of water nearby to make a water landing, or maybe a smaller airstrip or open field? I don’t see anything but clouds. Why are we still flying so high? I was looking for a place to land midway and the pilot was looking forward towards the arriving destination. Landing safely was my only concern — I did not care where — but the pilot was determined to keep pressing toward the goal, no matter how bumpy the flight may have been. I wanted to land safely, prematurely, and even start all over again with a different mode of transportation if need be, but his eyes were locked onto the finish line.

Our priorities weren’t aligned.

A plane ride isn’t the only place we might encounter feelings of uncertainty and fear. We can also experience those same feelings in our daily walk with Jesus. There are times in our lives when the carpet is pulled from underneath us and we find ourselves falling toward the floor desperately groping for something stable to hold and regain control. Whatever we rely on as a safety net aside from Jesus — the bestie who always seems to have the perfect words of encouragement when you’re feeling down, the emergency funds in the bank, or the wheels that keep the plane securely grounded at the airport loading bay — can all be swiftly yanked away, leaving us to deal with aggressive turbulence head on. I often want to go around or below the turbulence by retreating to a “safe” space in my mind with negative coping mechanisms such as escape-sleep or binge-watching Netflix and deal with it later, but the best option is to go right through it. Because retreating only prolongs arriving at the finish line. And that’s exactly where the pilot of that large aircraft and I differentiate.

One thing that was very clear during that flight was I had no control over the aircraft, the wind pockets, and definitely not the pilot. I couldn’t even walk (or march) up to his seat without being arrested and facing federal charges once we landed. The only thing I could do was sit there and wait until the nightmare was over. However, even though the situation felt horrible, it must not have been that bad because the plane continued toward its destination. It is safe to assume that the pilot knew best and although it was terrifying for me (and my son), he had been trained to handle that and the aircraft was manufactured to withstand the turbulence. The same holds true for dealing with uncertainties in our lives.

1 Peter 5:7 says, “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” God cares for you when you feel like you're in an airborne roller-coaster. He cares for you when your priorities aren't aligned with His and you want to go a different way. He cares for you as you fight in vain for control of the steering wheel. And what makes Him much better than a human pilot is that He invites us midflight to take our deepest concerns and anxieties to Him in prayer...because He cares. So when life throws turbulence our way, we must learn to trust God as the expert Pilot to help us navigate and safely arrive where He determines for us. Just thought I'd stop by your seat on the bumpy flight home to tell you.

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