It’s 7:30am. I have before me, one cup of coffee, roughly one and half hours and two confessions.
My first confession: I realise that for a long time there has been a concealed fear of flying within me that I haven’t wanted to admit. My second confession: even though I am a follower of Jesus and I trust Him for eternal life, for the longest time I have had a great fear of dying. And make no mistake, when I say ‘for the longest time’ that includes some of the duration of the life so far of this Broken Chariots blog.
So, if you can read between my lines, this is really just one confession; the second explains the first and the first simply illustrates the second.
Why these confessions?
Well, because in roughly one and a half hours I am flying to Geneva to spend a week with some family there; and whenever I board a plane, one thought often hijacks my mind: “This plane might crash today and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it!” Of course, in reality there are two things that I can do and I do both of them a lot when I am flying: I can pray and I can panic!
I have come to realise and accept that the reason I was so afraid of flying was because of my fear of dying.
As a Christian, for many years I have lacked assurance and consequently felt afraid and not ready to die.
Maybe – just maybe – you’re thinking, “Isn’t that terrible? Aren’t Christians supposed to be the most assured and confident people in the universe? Always going on about hope beyond the grave, life after death; ready to die at any moment and not afraid; ready to be fed to the lions, burnt at the stake, or fall out of the sky in a airplane!?”
Actually there are plenty of places in scripture where assurance and confidence is rightly challenged.
“If you love me, keep my commands.” – John 14:15
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. – James 1:22
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? – 2 Corinthians 13:5
Writing to the Christians – yes, Christians – at the church – yes, church – in Corinth, the Apostle Paul boldly asserts that his readers should examine themselves and test themselves to see whether they really do belong to Jesus. Outward living doesn’t save us but it is proof of whether Jesus truly lives in us. And if that proof isn’t evident, then there might be good reason to fear flying and dying!
And so when I started to question why I was afraid of dying I began to test whether Jesus was really in me in the light of His Word. Ever since I began to open His Word though the lens of inward and outward examination, the Lord has begun to challenge me and change me. One of those challenges has come through Annie’s cancer and the process of her flying away to glory.
I don’t quite know how to explain this to you, but the fear of flying I had was not the irrational kind that causes people to hyperventilate whenever they get within a five-mile radius of an airport. I have always loved travelling; marrying into an internationally spread family has transported me through the adventure of that passion. My Annie was born of an American mother and a flight mechanic father; she grew up beneath the flight path of Heathrow Airport; jet-fuel ran through my Annie’s veins and was transfused into mine through marriage. For some people, their vacation begins the moment they step foot on the beach or into the hotel lobby but for me, the moment I enter the airport, I’m on vacation. The sound of flight announcements and suitcase wheels sliding smoothly across the terminal surface is, to me, no less relaxing and thrilling than the rush of the ocean’s swell. For me, I arrive long before I enter the departure lounge.
And yet, so often I would still board a plane like Jonah boarded that ship bound for Tarshish via the eye of the storm and the mouth of a big fish. So often my mind would be confronted by those hidden dark closets of my life; areas of my life where I knew I was not living what I believed, not practicing what I preached, not willingly and lovingly obeying what Jesus commanded me. Wherever the destination of those flights, it always felt bound for Tarshish.
I can now say today that I know that the Lord is changing me and by His power He has been proving His Presence in me by putting to death so much in me since He called Annie home. Vanity, pride, worldliness, worry, anxiety, love of money, fear of the future, fear of rejection, fear of failure…all of these things that I have struggled with (often, by refusing to struggle with) for so many years, He is powerfully having victory over by His Word and His Spirit and His Lordship in my life. And He is replacing each one with new things that I have never experienced before as a Christian. He is increasing compassion and courage in me in ways that goes beyond the books that I have read in the past. In the past, I knew I needed compassion and courage and I tried to find it in the testimony of other Christians hoping that it would rub off on me or that I’d pick up some tips but it never really came to anything.
Consequently, I am now at the point where I am genuinely not afraid to fly or to die. This is the power of Christ in me.
Nevertheless old habits die hard. Each time I board a plane or book a flight, I still wonder whether it might crash. But it’s no longer in fear. I am ready to be with my Lord because I know His Presence with me today. That present reality is as liberating as it is assuring.
This flight is a first for me. It’s not only my first ever flight without my Annie but it’s also my first ever flight without anyone. I’m thirty eight years old and this is the first time I have ever flown solo! It’s the first time I’ve had to actually think for myself in an airport. Over the previous twelve years, all I’ve had to do in an airport was soak up the atmosphere and keep up with Annie as she effortlessly made all the stuff happen in between entering the airport and boarding the flight. Without my interpreter by my side, this time I’ve actually had to learn the language inside these places. So far, I’ve made it through check-in and am now blending in with the ‘laptop and latte’ locals gathered at Starbucks.
Statistically speaking, this won’t be the last blog entry I ever post; there probably will be more. But there might not.
In His Arms and neither afraid to fly or die,