Today as I boarded a plane to Charlotte, NC, a 40-something-year-old woman sat down across the aisle from me. She was obviously a little nervous, moving her lips silently and making the sign of the cross several times (touching finger from forehead to breastbone, from right shoulder to left).
I turned to speak to her but before I could open my mouth, she said, “I’m not crazy! I’ve just never flown before in my whole life and I’m a bit scared.” While I was reassuring her that all would be well, I was thinking, “Well, so much for that work I was going to do in-flight.”
“Do you fly a lot?” she asked.
“Quite often,” I replied. “There’s nothing to it. No, no, hon. Turn the buckle around the other way like this. See? It snaps right in. There you go.”
“How tight do I tighten it? It’s got to be really, really tight, doesn’t it?” she asked, pulling the belt with all her might.
“Oh, no! That’s too tight! You need to be able to breath easily. There, that’s good. Now just sit back and…
“Why are you sitting on the aisle side? Don’t you like looking out the window? You get scared, don’t you? It’s scary, isn’t it? I don’t know if I can do this!” Her voice pitched higher and higher with each question. Then she abruptly turned and slammed down the window shade.
“No, no! I like the aisle because you have more arm room and you can get up easier if you need to get something or to go to the bathroom. Actually, I like looking out the window, too. It’s very beautiful. Now just relax and…
“What’s that? What was that noise?” she asked, jerking herself upright, her eyes as big as saucers.
“It’s okay. It’s okay. The flight attendant just closed the door. That’s a good noise; you want to hear that noise!” I joked, trying to ease her tensions.
“I’m sorry! I’m just so nervous. I’ve never done this before. I’ve heard stories. I just don’t know if I can do this!”
I was trying to calm her down with another witty comment when the flight attendant, who heard what was going on, offered to let the woman sit on the front row close to her. “That way, at each step of the way, I can prepare you for what’s going to happen next and hopefully make your first flight a great experience for you.”
The woman gave a frightful look my way. And I, being the compassionate, patient, kind and loving person that I am, said, “Go!” Of course, I meant it for her own good, don’t you know.
“And we urge you…encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”*
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”**
“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing…Love is patient, love is kind…”***
“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”****
(Excuse me — I’ll be right back after this short prayer break!)
As the plane streaked down the runway and lifted into the air, the woman said, “Is that it? Wow! That wasn’t so bad!” Throughout the entire flight, the attendant spoke softly to the woman, letting her know what to expect and gently answering her myriad of questions. By the time we reached our destination, the woman was sitting in the windowseat, shade up, marveling at how the earth looks from 30,000 feet. What a transformation!
You know, I failed to show this woman the love of God, but she and the flight attendant surely showed it to me! How much like the woman I am — frightened little child at times, seeing and hearing danger all around me, anxious about every little thing, asking question after question.
And God? He’s like the flight attendant: He comes to me in my time of need. He’s patient and compassionate. He answers each question with tenderness, never calling them “dumb” questions. He calms my fears, bidding me to be anxious for nothing but to trust Him.
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love…
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him…”
(Psalm 103:8 & 13)
Thank you, Lord, for being my “flight attendant”; for being patient with me as I travel on this journey called life; for gently talking to me the entire way and answering all my questions; for being compassionate and kind to me when I’m like a frightened little child; and for loving me with Your abounding love!
*1 Thessalonians 5:14 **Colossians 3:12 ***1 Corinthians 13:1-4 ****James 4:17