You are Not the Pilot

Most people who know me well know that I have an intense fear of flying, or, more specifically, the take off. This is ironic, considering the fact that I have been averaging anywhere from 1 to 3 trips per month as of late. Airports and planes are a constant in my life, and I can no more avoid them than I can avoid my alarm clock in the morning. It's just something I have to deal with. I have flown frequently throughout my entire life. I'm not sure when exactly the anxiety crept in, but I assume it was somewhere between 9/11 and a plane that crashed in my hometown, right after it took off. Regardless of the inception, my fear is alive and full of sweaty palms and a racing heartbeat every time I hear the engines roar. When flying alone, I shut my eyes, grip the armrest that is shoving into my side (thanks, Frontier), and pray as if my life depends on it.

If I'm flying with my husband, I usually bury my head into his shoulder and breathe like an asthmatic psychopath. I jump and flinch with every unwelcome noise, be it the wheels pulling up into the belly of the plane or the change in altitude that causes my ears to pop. I look at him with wide eyes, waiting for him to say something reassuring. He typically frowns because I keep waking him up. I then, shake his arm and whisper, "What was that?!", as if pointing out every minor sound will somehow make them go away.

On every flight, there comes a point when Ross looks at me and says, "I'm sorry, are you a pilot? Did I miss when you went to flight school?" and with feigned terror, "Griffin, do you need to go fly this plane?!" 

As angry as his mockery makes me in the moment, there's far too much truth in that statement. I am not the pilot. I'm not in control. And I hate that.

I'm terrified of flying because it forces me to face the truth that I'm completely unable to dictate my circumstances. No matter how many safety demonstrations I listen to, nothing in my power could save me if something were to go wrong in the giant, flying airbus. I can't hide behind the distraction of my email or work or social media; I can't call anyone to talk to me through the scary parts. It all comes down to me and my ability to trust the pilot.

During the 30 seconds of takeoff, I have intense clarity about how little power I really have. But then, the plane reaches 30,000 feet, I mutter a prayer of thanks in my head, and go back to the meticulous planning of my affairs. When I live life at the cruising altitude, it's so easy to pretend that I'm flying the plane. I'm existing, the plane is existing, and outside of a little turbulence here and there, nothing is going to jar my focus. I have a one-sided view out of the window and absolutely no idea about the direction I'm really heading.

I believe that God uses the out-of-control moments in our lives to remind us of our need for Him because it's difficult to get our attention when we feel like we're cruising on auto pilot. If we're not willing to tune in during the mundane moments, it might take something alarming and loud for us to recognize our lack of trust. In the moments when you feel most afraid, take the time to realize that you aren't the pilot. Letting go of your worries doesn't mean that you relinquish control; it means acknowledging that you never held the steering wheel in the first place.