I have been flying in planes since before I could walk.
My dad was in the Air Force, and has been a commercial pilot for 17 years now. Needless to say, I fly a lot. One of the perks of his job is that I can fly anywhere I want, anytime I want, if there are seats open on the plane. Most times, that means waiting in the airport all day to catch a flight, but it is worth it for the free flight.
So, I have never been afraid of flying either. It is just habit.
I found myself in O’Hare International Airport at 1:30pm on a Thursday. I had just finished a very stressful week of finals, and I was ready to head back to Texas for almost a whole month at home for Christmas break. Usually, I fly alone, but today, my good friend Rachel was with me. Although we were on different flights, we rode the shuttle to the airport together, went through security together, and we had time in the terminal to grab a meal together.
After not being able to get on the 3pm flight, or the 4:10, and realizing that my luck did not look any better for the 5pm, I was a little discouraged about getting home. So, Rachel and I decided to go to Chili’s to chat for a bit. After about an hour of talking, I got a call from my dad. He wanted to send me through Nashville.
So, I hugged Rachel goodbye and ran down the concourse to catch the Nashville flight that was leaving in 15 minutes. After talking with the gate agent and getting a seat, I walked onto the plane
The problem was, this plane was operated by American Eagle.
I have nothing against American Eagle, I had just never flown on Eagle before. I am used to flying on big planes. First, it was flying on Air Force C-130’s from Japan to the U.S., and then many, many, many MD80’s, 737’s, and 757’s across the continental U.S. So, big planes and I get along very well.
There’s something about driving a big SUV, or, in my case, flying on big planes, that makes you feel safe. You feel like you don’t have to worry about anything because you have this big, heavy shell protecting you from the outside world.
Often times, that is what I think about being a Christian. I have this big, marvelous God who has His arms around me, protecting me from everything. The problem is, often times, I use being a Christian as a protective shell, so, I do not have to get vulnerable with anyone, even God.
So, when I got on the plane, I was a bit nervous seeing how small it was. Small means vulnerable. With each step I took, I uttered another prayer to God. “Please God, just get me home.” I had never been afraid of flying until now. (But, on a plus side, I had a whole row to myself, so at least I would be comfortable if something went wrong).
As we taxied to the runway, I could feel the plane shake beneath my feet. “Oh no, there’s something wrong with the plane,” I thought to myself as I took in a deep breath. We gained speed, and we were immediately in the air. Usually, at this point in a plane ride, I joke to myself: “Well, there’s nothing I can do now.” But, as we climbed higher and higher, and the clouds got thicker and thicker, all I could think was “why me?”
Eventually, the clouds were so thick that all I could see was white. That must be how it feels to be buried in snow. I immediately felt claustrophobic. “This is it. This is it.” I muttered to myself. It felt like I was going to be trapped in that white place forever.
That is, until we broke out of the clouds.
I saw perhaps the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. As we broke through the clouds, the sky lit up a bright red. Orange streaks danced across the sky. The white clouds formed perfect, flowing waves underneath the sunset. The sight was so beautiful that I had to take a million pictures of it. Upon seeing the sunset, I was immediately at peace. I could not help but smile as I looked at the breathtaking sky. [I have posted a picture I took below, but it could never do justice to the sight, especially with my iPhone camera, and this is not the sunset in it’s full beauty, because I was a little slow to take the picture]
This is what it looks like when God smiles.
I immediately realized that this is what we are supposed to see everyday. The Lord smiles down on us every day, looking past our sin, and our flaws, and our fallen nature, and He just smiles.
But, we do not see this everyday. In fact, we’re lucky if we ever see this sight.
We, as fallen humans, are so afraid of God. We are so afraid that He is going to smite us because we sin. Each and every time we sin, we are afraid of the wrath of God. We feel ashamed. We feel worthless.
But, we can find hope in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We fear that things separate us from God. We fear that God will not accept us because of our sin. We fear that He will overlook us. We close up because we are afraid.
Meanwhile, God is still smiling down on us.
God is smiling. But we cannot see it. Our fear of vulnerability and of someone seeing our each and every flaw cloud God’s smile. Eventually, we close up, and our fear creates a barrier between us and God. All we can see is white. We are claustrophobic. We do not know which way is up or down. We are fearful. We think, “why me?” We pray, but then we complain that God does not hear us.
But God says, “Just look up, my child! Look, I’m smiling at you. Yes, you! I love you.”
And as we slowly open up, as we slowly start to trust that God can love us no matter what we do, we break through our shells.
We break through the clouds.
And we see the most beautiful sight we have ever seen. We see God smile.