By Barb Stanley
I remember jumping into the plane last minute, still muddy from the flag football game that had just ended (not muddy from the football, mind you, but from doing sloppy cartwheels on the sidelines to impress a cute boy on the team). Did I notice that clouds were beginning to roll in, or that the sky was starting to darken. Probably, but I was 23 years old, about to board my first private plane, and unable to stop smiling about the young footballer and his casual mention of getting coffee soon. And that was all that was on my mind when the doors shut, the wheels went up, and the first peel of thunder shook our souls.
Honestly, we should never have been on that plane to begin with, or have been taking off when the weather was just about to turn, but, there we were anyway, huddled together mostly in silence. The funny thing was that there was really no point for this entire trip, and everyone on board knew it. The only reason we were even giving up our weekend for work was because the owner of our company was newly single, and in the days before internet dating he was also a newly minted member of a matchmaking service who had matched him with a lady who hosted seminars a few states away. And, when she asked him if he could send some staff to her event, we became the chosen: four wisened department leaders and one young graphic designer.
I remember that it didn’t take long at all before things went bad. I’m not even sure if we were out of Ohio before the cracks of thunder and flashes of lightning exploded all around us. I also know that I should have been scared. All of my co-workers were scared, four men in varying stages of corporate grizzle, wide-eyed and tense fisted, but I was still smiling, relaxed and unencumbered. The plane dipped, more than once, a not so subtle hint that it was the storm that was in charge, not us. I remember the turbulence rocking the plane back and forth. I remember the darkness of the sky. I remember the sky was beautiful.
“Wow. Isn’t this exciting!” I actually said that.
One of my colleagues, the sales manager to be exact, tightened his grip on the railing and stared at me. “Why are you not worried?”
It was a good question. The storm was strong, and our plane was not. But, I looked toward the cockpit, and said simply. “Because, I trust our pilot.”
You see, for me it was simple. I knew our pilot. His name was Brad and he had been flying the company plane for as long as I had been around. He had an impeccable record. He cared about others. He kept his word. He always did the right thing. And after anyone spent time with him, they always felt better afterwards. In short, I believed in him. So, when we found ourselves in the middle of cracking thunder, flashing lightning, and raging winds, in a plane that was clearly not strong enough to withstand the storm, I wasn’t scared because I had faith in the one who was at the helm.
Looking back, I can see that it wasn’t actually the situation that was so simple. It was me. I was that simple. Simply believing that I didn’t have to be the one to find a way through each storm and simply trusting that somehow I would make it out anyway. Now, half a lifetime later, I long to be that simple again. Because today, storms continue to hit, throwing me off balance in the turbulence. And when they do, I often find myself wide eyed and gripping the rail, my simple faith lost in the raging wind.
What about you? Are you simple?
Or are you like me? In your own varying stage of grizzle, experienced enough to know that life can give you both the best and the worst that being human has to offer. And through those experiences, have you learned that when thunder cracks, it’s time to curl up and hunker down, instead of staring out the window marveling at the beauty. Because this is where I have been over the past few months when storm after storm after storm has thundered through my family’s doors. Loss, illness, and stress have been constant companions this year. And while I thought I was weathering the storm well, I realized today as I reflected back on this old plane ride, that instead of looking out the window of life, I have been hunkering down, gripping the rail, and counting the seconds between the flash of lightning and the crack of thunder.
I realized that I have forgotten what it felt like to believe that the clouds could part and that we could safely land in the sun. And this is because, the me of today, has taken her eyes off the pilot and placed them only on the storm. But I also realized something else. I can have simple faith again. All I have to do is shift my gaze.
So, that is what I am going to strive to do. As the storms of life come and go, or come and come as this season has shown, I am going to once again look to my pilot. I will remember that a storm that rocks me, can be steadied by His hand. That amidst the darkness, there are still flashes of light beautifying the sky. I will remember as I am thrown by turbulence, that I have not been put on this journey alone. And I will remember the simple faith of my youth, believing that whatever the ride may bring, in the end I will be carried through it.
Just like I was back then. You see, the rest of my plane ride story isn’t very dramatic. (Well, if you don’t count the part where our big boss did get the girl and then ghosted her three weeks later). But the rest of the story ended quietly. Our pilot did carry us through the storm until the clouds parted and we landed in the sun. We did attend the world’s most pointless seminar and had a few laughs, extra grateful to be on solid ground. Then, the six of us got together that night for dinner. It was here that our conversation turned back to our plane ride.
“I wasn’t scared at all.” I said, looking at our pilot, “Because I knew you would get us through.”
“Oh,” He said. “That’s funny, because I wasn't so sure, myself.”
There was uncomfortable laughter all around the table, as I think we realized this simple truth. Our pilot, had not been the only one who carried us through that day.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. - Psalm 56:3