On a Sunday morning last fall, I boarded a plane in Phoenix, where I had come three days earlier for my uncle’s memorial service. Three days with my parents, sister, and assorted relatives that I hadn’t seen in years, three days of catching up and talk talk talking, three days of absorbing varying levels of grief, loss, tears, and anger, three days away from my husband and children, three days out of the rhythms and rituals that undergird and uphold my life. It was in many ways wonderful, but as I flopped into my narrow window seat, I also realized I was emotionally and spiritually spent.
We took off. An hour into the flight, the plane started bucking and cantering like a grumpy colt. The fasten seat belt light came on.
Now, I am a nervous flyer at the best of times. Throw in turbulence, and I become agitated. Add in emotional and spiritual exhaustion, and I fall into full-fledged panic. I sat there with the plane rolling beneath me and panic rolling within me, and I could do nothing. I could not fight. I could not flee. I could only sit. With every jolt, fear roiled through my body.
I closed my eyes and breathed. After 20 years of praying the Jesus Prayer, it is a near constant companion, and its words came to my aid now. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. Over and over again, I prayed those words. I imagined Jesus standing in my synaptic gaps, absorbing the fear hormones that were coursing through my brain and triggering the full-body cortisol and adrenaline rushes that were cascading through my chest and limbs.
I prayed Isaiah 41:10, my life verse: Do not fear for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. I chanted those words over and over in my mind. I imagined the strong arm of God holding the plane in the air. I imagined the Holy Spirit bearing it on His wings above the clouds.
For two hours I breathed and prayed and pictured the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit surrounding me, upholding me, indwelling me. Protecting me. Protecting every single person on that plane.
We landed safely, and as I stood on shaky legs to exit the plane, I vowed I would never fly again.
A week later, I sat in church and listened to the sermon. The preacher said, “We say we want to lean wholly on Jesus and live utterly abandoned to Him, but we so rarely enter into circumstances that would force us to do exactly that.”
Crap, I thought, crap crap crap—because I knew in that moment that I was going to have to fly again. The challenge to me was not to fly less but to fly more, both literally and figuratively.
Flying is a good metaphor for life with God. I have zero control when I am flying. I am trusting hard that the mechanics have done their jobs, that the pilots know what they are doing, and that the control tower people are well-rested and competent. Likewise, when I launch out on the wings of faith, I am trusting that Someone beyond my control is always and everywhere upholding me and keeping me from falling.
Next month, I will board another plane. It will lift up into the air, and forces beyond my control will bear me, I hope, to Chicago. And I will pray the whole way. That flight will be a visceral reminder that Someone else, Someone far more powerful than a jet engine, is with me and upholding me not just when I am literally in the air but in all times and all places.
It is Easter, the season in which we celebrate the rising of our Lord Jesus from the dead and His glorious triumph over the powers of sin and destruction and death, the season in which we celebrate His resurrection—and the resurrection life He imparts to us. God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us…has made us alive together with Christ…and has raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
Resurrection life is life in the risen Christ, life in the heavenly places, life on wings. When we live in Christ, we are surrounded by Christ as by an atmosphere. And just as we breathe the air around us and it fills our lungs and gives life to our bodies, so too do our spirits breathe Christ when we live in Him—He is our air, surrounding us, filling us, upholding us, giving us Life.
This is not a metaphor. It is Reality.
It is the life we are promised in Christ Jesus—Resurrection Life. Life on wings. Those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength. They will rise on wings like eagles.
It’s Easter, friends. Let’s soar.
Lilias Trotter, an early 20th century English M to Algeria, wrote that when it comes to the needs of our own souls, “we do not need to come again and again to wring an unwilling answer out of our Father, but to search in His Word till He gives a promise which meets our case and then step out on it in the bare faith which believes that it receives.”
In this season of Resurrection Life, where do you need to step out in bare faith and trust God to uphold you?
P.S. This is Amy, remember reading Lilias Trotter’s biography last summer? Next week we start Seeker (The Shiloh Series Book 2) by and I can.not.wait. You know I’m a nut when it comes to Eden. I don’t tend to like Christian fiction, but Helena Sorensens’ writing doesn’t make my skin crawl! Instead, it captivates me too. Maybe you’re needing some post retreat captivating too.
Here is the reading plan for the next few weeks:
- May 9—first third of Seeker
- May 16—second third of Seeker
- May 23—final third of Seeker
- May 30—we will start The Road from Coorain by
- June 6—Kimberlee Conway Ireton will share!