Three months ago I wrote about my fear of flying, my vow never to fly again, and the way God showed me that refusing to fly was not the answer to my fear. In June I boarded an airplane. I was a bit nervous—though less nervous than I’ve been before a flight in years. Lift-off was nerve-wracking as we flew straight into a low-lying cloudbank and then out into the sunlight with a thick blanket of clouds beneath us. I was grateful for the sunlight, but the realization that I was soaring above the clouds in a metal tube over which I had no control was not, shall we say, a situation to inspire confidence.
And then there was the turbulence. Okay, so turbulence is probably an overstatement. The plane was mildly wobbly as it ascended. I tried to read, but the plane kept bumping about, small bumps to be sure, but nothing like a smooth ride.
I breathed and prayed and recited various eagles’ wings Scriptures, and even though every bump shot adrenaline through my system like I was facing a saber-tooth tiger, I was able to laugh at myself a little.
Eventually the air smoothed out, and for the rest of the flight I was able to distract myself with an engrossing book. I was even able to enjoy the aerial view of Lake Michigan as we descended into Chicago!
In the circle of the church year, we are in the season of Ordinary Time. It’s not what it sounds like. Ordinary in this sense is related to ordinal, which means to count. In the church calendar Ordinary Time is time that is counted, time that counts, that matters. Over half of the year is Ordinary Time, and its liturgical color is green, the color of growth.
The bulk of our days are lived in Ordinary Time, in the daily choices of our ordinary, every day lives. The church fathers knew what they were doing when they called this season time that counts, when they chose the color green. They knew that it is in the commonplace that courage for the crisis is forged. They knew that it is in the daily choices we make that our character is formed. They knew that it is in the ordinary round of our days and weeks and months that we grow.
For we will grow. The question is how.
Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time there was a good Christian girl who lived with chronic anxiety. She woke up feeling anxious, all day she dragged anxiety around in her gut like a ball and chain, and she went to bed anxious. She hated the anxiety, and yet it was familiar, known, so even as she hated it, she also held onto it. She made choices, day in and day out, for years, to hug anxiety to her chest, to define herself by the fear she carried with her. And the fear grew until it seemed to be part of her, woven into the very fabric of her being.
One day when she was almost 40, she got so sick of it, she let it go. Every time she felt anxious, she took a deep breath, and expelled the anxiety into the hands of her Savior. She asked Him to burn the anxiety up in the fire of His holy love. She did this over and over and over. Sometimes she did it many times a minute. Slowly, gradually, the choice to release the anxiety again and again into God’s hands bore fruit. She became less anxious. God’s love grew in her and began to flood the places that used to be crammed full of fear. She woke up feeling glad. Sometimes during the day she would feel an amazing sense of well-being and she would wonder, Is this what joy feels like? Is this what the Bible means by shalom? She would go to bed with a prayer of thanksgiving on her lips.
She was even able to do things that before had struck fear into her heart, things like having a difficult conversation when she’d rather have avoided it, or getting on an airplane when she’d much rather have stayed on terra firma.
Friends, I wish I could say that she lived happily ever after (and I believe she will), but I confess she still sometimes feels anxious. That’s only to be expected. After all, though we grow and change, often that growth is slow, and it’s only after the passage of many months or even years that we can see the fruit (good or bad) of those moment-by-moment choices we’ve made.
I do not yet respond to situations like flying with confidence and joy. I revert to my old habit of fearful inward shrinking. But I know how to respond to that reaction. I give it to God. I place myself firmly in His victorious hands, knowing that He holds me even if I don’t feel like He does. Emotions are not knowledge. They’re just emotions, and I don’t want to live from them. I want to live in and from truth. So I tell myself the truth: God loves me, God is with me, God is upholding me and surrounding me and indwelling me and blessing me, right here, right now.
By choosing to live in and from truth rather than fear in the ordinary daily moments of my life I am becoming more and more able to face unordinary experiences like flying with a smile on my face. If we wait for the extraordinary moments to gird up our loins, when they come we will fail. Life is mostly lived in the quotidian round of work and relationships and interactions of ordinary tenor. And it is precisely in these things that we can grow ever more like Christ, surrendering our whole selves to Him, moment by moment, day in and day out, living ever more fully in the light of His promises.
The only question is: will we?
Next week we start our August book— A Man Called Ove, you do not want to miss it!
August 8: Chapters 1-9
August 15: Chapters 10-19
August 22: Chapters 20-29
August 29: Chapters 30-The End