I do not love flying. I don’t lose sleep over it, but I also don’t usually sleep during a flight… As though my alertness is going to help the pilots focus and aid in the whole defying-gravity situation. I especially hate the feeling when the pilots slow down to level off. They have to do it. Physics and all that. But I do not care for it. It feels like stopping, and stopping sounds like a terrible plan when it’s speed that’s keeping you up there. I like to be able to see out the window, to reassure myself that we aren’t plummeting back down to earth. I don’t know what I would do if I discovered that we were, but so far, that hasn’t been an issue.
My mom used to be a super nervous flyer, so I blame her just a little for the fear that washed over onto me. She would sometimes jump and kind of slap or grab my arm if I was sitting next to her. At some point, my stomach started flipping without that extra nudge of nervousness.
Today I flew with my family. About a year ago my dad got his pilot’s license, and while he wasn’t flying the plane today, it was like flying with an insider—one that I trust. When the plane slowed to level off, I watched his face. When it pitched in a way I would have preferred it not, I glanced over at his resting hands. When it dinged its flight-language that I cannot understand, I looked at his eyes. Calm. Every time. And so was I.
And it hit me. We have got to be where we can see our Father.
Because if we don’t see Him, we will white-knuckle our way through the fairest of flights. We will sit wide-eyed and frightened while the subtle rocking might have lulled us to sleep and led us to rest. And at the first sign of trouble, we will flail our arms and knock fear right into the laps of those around us. We will slosh our worries all over each other. We will squeeze the life right out of the hands we reach for.
We have got to get this panic under control, and it will not be by charging the cockpit. We have got to find a way to fix our eyes on the One we cannot see.
It made me think of Peter walking on the water [Matthew 14:22-33]. As soon as he took his eyes off of Jesus, he began to sink. He saw the waves. He felt the unfamiliar swell of water beneath his feet, and fear crashed over him stronger than any wave ever would. Here’s the thing. Peter could swim. Peter had probably swum in that lake thousands of times. He was a fisherman. He’d leaned over the side of the boat to untangle the nets. He’d jumped in to cool off. He’d waded in to retrieve a sandal. He was familiar with this water. But it was dark. And the wind was against him. Water that had lapped against the shore at lunchtime now slapped against the boat.
Peter knew that we can drown in the same waters we have delighted to swim in. We can even drown in waters we’ve walked upon.
And so he cried out, “Lord, save me!” He didn’t fight to keep his feet atop the waves. He didn’t struggle to swim as the current pulled him under. He just looked to the One who was still standing. And so can we.
Even when every alarm on the plane is dinging. When our knuckles are white and we can read our own fear in the faces of those around us. When we’ve left our friends on the boat and decided water-walking is a thing. When our feet and our faces sink beneath the waves. When we cannot find our faith. When we cannot calm our panic. When we cannot summon strength. When it feels like a last resort.
We don’t need help swimming. We just desperately need the One who walks upon these waters.
We need His peace and His calm and His wisdom. We need His presence and His steadiness and His humor. We need to know that He isn’t panicking even if everyone else around us is. We need His reassurance that we are okay. We need His intervention when we are not. We need His gentle nudging and His firm grip. We need to know that He knows. We need to know that He cares. We need to look to our Father.
We need to see His eyes because we need to know they’re still on us.
“Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in his steadfast love...” Psalm 33:18
Even if our eyes have shifted to the crushing waves, our Father’s eyes have not.