I’ve always been terrified of flying. It just feels like such a likely way to die. Countless friends have assured me of the scientific fact that you are more likely to die traveling by car then by plane, but that has never comforted me since it is also true that there are more survivors of car accidents than there are of airplane crashes. The little “Be Safe” brochure taunts me from the seat pocket as if to convince me that clutching my seat cushion to my chest actually would help me in the off-chance we take a midnight plunge into the Pacific Ocean.
But fear isn’t really about whether or not I’m safe, is it? Fear is my mind’s choice to believe what is not true: that God is not in control.
Fortunately, I’ve been given passions that require air travel so that I would be forced to confront this, my greatest fear, on a regular basis. When I was about 15 years old, I read that the main runway in Honduras is one of the most dangerous in the world. Several planes have crashed there. Suddenly I began to reevaluate my desire to go. I went to my parents and asked if they thought it was a good idea for me to keep going to Honduras, considering how dangerous it was to fly there. In their wisdom and sensitivity to what God needed to communicate to my fear-enslaved heart, they said, “Honey, this desire is between you and God. If you trust that he is leading you, you can go and know that you are safer with him in the air than running away from him on the ground.”
That wasn’t really what I was looking for. I was hoping they’d tell me to pay attention to my fear and find something that scared me less. They knew, though, that once you give fear a second glance, it grows and begins to shade every area of life with grey suspicion. It becomes a kind of twisted permission to not do anything. My parents’ answer drove me straight back to God, begging him to either remove the desire to go to Honduras or give me the courage to walk into something that felt unsafe and maybe even unwise. He didn’t remove the desire. It only grew more intense, eventually leading me to move to Honduras – into a neighborhood where I frequently fell asleep to gunshots and woke up to find blood in the dirt alleyway outside my front door. That move necessitated even more air travel, wouldn’t you know, and brought even more opportunities to carry my fear to Jesus.
There have since been 15 flights back and forth to Honduras and many more to Europe, Australia, and Africa. I’ve touched down gratefully in countless cities across America and breathed deep as we left the ground again, reminding Jesus that he is the God who promises to keep me from falling.
My heart rate still accelerates when there’s turbulence and fear still tries to steal these hours in the air, but I’ve noticed a shift over the years.
Airplanes have become a sacred, secret meeting place for me and Jesus – our own holy ground, if you will. Something about the intense fear that wants to rise up in my heart around air travel opens me up to special nearness with Jesus that doesn’t happen as easily on days when I feel safe and sound. Once I realized this, I actually started to look forward to flying for the intimacy it brought with Jesus. But why stop there?
Translated into daily life, my fear of flying and the nearness it brings could be applied to any other of my [many] hidden fears. They’re like a sweet secret between me and Jesus. When I walk into a room full of people and know that the expectation is that I will make conversation and answer the dreaded, “So what are you doing with your life?” question, I back into Jesus and whisper, “show me something new about yourself as I walk in this place that scares me, ok?”.
With each RSVP to yet another wedding or baby shower – those events which serve as a reminder for what my life is not – there comes the opportunity to face my fear that something is wrong and ask Jesus to remind me of the beauty of what is.
When I choose to face fears, they peel back the vulnerable places in my heart and mind and I get to embrace the full reward of the promise: my strength is made perfect in your weakness. I get to curl up in a big chair with Jesus and say, “This is scary. What do you want to show me about yourself through this time?”
If the idea of asking Jesus to show you something sounds a little foreign, that’s ok. That’s why we have his spirit living inside of us. He can lead us to the answers of our own questions. The two best questions I ask about any situation in which fear threatens to rule are:
1. What truth about God is important to me in this situation?
2. What truth about myself is important in this situation?
Answering those two questions usually restores my heart to peace and almost always produces some new little truth I had never thought of before. So, ask yourself those two questions. Because who wants to live in fear?
After all, when we choose to listen to fear, how well do we represent the God of the Universe who promises to never leave or forsake us? He says “do not fear” and we can rest assured that inherent in that command lies an invitation to be empowered by Jesus to live it out – to know him, not in spite of our fears, but through them. He wants to be our hiding place.
So what little hidden fear might you have to face today?
How could you invite Jesus to show himself to you in a new way as you choose not to submit to that fear?