The 1986 version of Whitney flew to Germany as a 6-month-old baby. She felt no fear. (Ok, ok... that doesn't count.)
2002 Whitney flew in a 5-seater Cessna through a thunderstorm from southern Texas into rural Mexico. This flight was epic. We thought it would last an hour or so, but it was double that time because of the horrible weather. I sat in the co-pilot seat, and my mom, sister, and a friend were crammed with our luggage in the back. It was a total relief once we landed, but more because we were nauseous from being thrown about in the skies than anything else.
2007 Whitney flew non-stop from Chicago to Tokyo, a very long 13 hours where we even passed over the Bering Strait. No problems on this flight at all, and it felt like quite the adventure.
2009 Whitney flew a very routine flight from Nashville to Chicago - one she had flown many times - that was very turbulent and brought about her first full-blown panic attack. You can read about that here. The pilot said we were experiencing "challenging skies," which did me in. From then on, my eyes were opened to the fear of flying. I'd never fear it before, even a little bit. I didn't even fear flying when I probably should've been afraid, like the Cessna trip into Mexico.
From April 2009 on, every flight was dreaded. Every flight was an event. On every flight, you could find me in a window seat near the front of the plane, wide eyes glued to the window at every tiny bump, tightening my seatbelt and gripping my armrests with clammy palms. It sounds pathetic, but it was reality. I usually kept my Bible open on my lap and prayed through a psalm when my heart began to race. And by the time we landed and I could finally breathe, I felt utterly drained.
I tried so many things to get over this fear.
I tried researching what turbulence really is.
I tried envisioning God carrying the plane along with his own strong hands.
I tried praying.
I still felt like a mess.
Until this week.
On Tuesday evening, I flew by myself to Chicago - and just flew back this morning. On our way to the airport, my Mom asked me to pray aloud about the flight. I prayed, just like I had for the past 3 years. But for whatever reason, God chose to make this time different. This time, I calmly boarded the plane, opened a book, and only glanced out the window a couple times.
On today's flight, the last 30 minutes were very bumpy, and you would have normally found me in a cold sweat as all I could see was the pure white cloud cover as we traversed through it. But today, those same bumps lulled me to sleep. TO SLEEP! I can't emphasize the contrast enough. To those of you who have never feared flying, this all may seem a little dramatic. But to those who have feared flying or have feared anything so deeply, you understand this experience for what it really is: a miracle.
Have you ever noticed how often in Scripture the phrase, "but God" exists? It's all over the place.
"The wicked go down to the realm of the dead... but God will never forget the needy." (Psalm 9:17-18)
"Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands." (1 Samuel 23:14)
"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." (Psalm 73:26)
"But, because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions." (Ephesians 2:4-5)
This God of mine is a God of contrast, of redemption. He is so "other," characterized by these verses that tell us that the situation was going poorly - Saul searching to kill David, our failing flesh, being dead in our own sin - and he comes along and radically changes the whole story.
How thankful I am to have entered a new season of travel, one that I'm not sure I ever believed would come. But God surely did. Oh, how He did.