On Flying and Not Being Ruled by Fear

photo credit: Patrick Davis

Row 38, seat B. That was my assigned spot on the flight of my worst nightmares. My husband will tell you that I am being dramatic. Maybe. Maybe not. It was a windy day, a turbulent flight and call me crazy, but my idea of fun does not include bouncing around in an airplane when that far from the ground. As a side note, I would prefer the pilot not come over the intercom with any updates either. Good or bad, I don't want to know. Any dinging sound followed by the sound of his voice puts me on the edge of my seat. We're thirty-thousand feet in the air, and I can take my seatbelt off now? Great. I feel so unrelieved. 

It almost sounds like I hate to fly, but that's not true. I love traveling. I love airports. I love the speed of taking off and seeing the aerial view. It's just that I only enjoy it when it feels safe and under control.  

At one point during the flight, my husband looked at me and asked how it felt not to have any control over the pilot. To not be able to nudge and direct the driver the way I do my spouse when he's behind the wheel. 

Terrible, I thought. 

But here's the reality. Flying is good for me. 

I like feeling a sense of control, and when it feels removed, it puts to test everything I claim to believe. 

I sat at a table the night before attempting to talk one of my son's away from nosediving over a cliff of fear about this very flight. I looked at him and told him about a time in my life when I was struggling with high anxiety and fear. Frequent trips to my primary care doctor. Frequent trips to the ER. A misdiagnosis of asthma, when in fact I was being ruled by anxiety.  

I looked at him in that dimly lit space of that authentic little Italian restaurant. 

"Don't let fear rule your life. It will stop you from doing the things you want to do in life." 

And I could only speak that truth from a place that I have lived through and learned from. 


We live much of our lives under this subconscious illusion of safety. Not that all things are outside of our control, hence the reason there are certain daily practices I have that help me feel safe. 

Locking my door. 
Wearing my seatbelt. 
Trying to eat healthy and organic. 
Having my cell phone on me in case of an emergency. 

But what I have learned in my moments of feeling like my safety is compromised or when feeling a loss of control are crucial parts of my emotional and spiritual development. 

You see, the pilot knew there was turbulence ahead. He knew how to steward the plane accordingly, and he was not phased by it. In fact, he came over the intercom (yes…I winced) and announced that there was a bit of turbulence and that he would get us to our destination safe and sound.  

I like those words. I want predictable outcomes. I love feeling a sense of control over my life and my fate. 

And in the moments that don't feel safe and sound, my heart is in the process of being recalibrated to know that my safety is in God alone. He is my shelter. No matter my location or my circumstance. Whether I am in the statistically "safe" part of town or the part labeled dangerous. Whether I am facing health or dreading the phone call from the doctor. Whether I am thirty-thousand feet in the air encountering turbulence or feet planted firmly on the ground.  

"He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." Psalm 91:2 

The future is unknown to me, but it is not unknown to God. Although I don't like being taken out of my comfort zone, it is good for me. It stretches me and causes me to assess if I am living my life in self-awareness or God awareness. 

It leads me back to a place of peace.

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