“Where can I go from Your spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me fast.” – Psalm 139:7-10
I confess I have a terrible fear of flying. Fear makes me mean, and years ago, my husband suggested ever-so-gently that our marriage might not outlast the honeymoon to Mexico if I didn’t get professional help for my phobia.
It might seem counterintuitive that a Christian minister—or a Christian of any stripe—would be afraid to fly. Don’t we know that flying is the safest form of travel? And aren’t we supposed to have dealt with irrational fears and a propensity to worry, simply because Jesus told us to?
And, because planes sometimes do come down: well, isn’t Going to Glory something we are supposed to look forward to?
But that assumes I’m afraid of dying. I’m not afraid of dying. I’m afraid of falling. I, who once made a Ferris wheel operator stop the ride to let me off (and then blamed the 10-year-old I was with for the disruption), cannot bear the thought of being far from earth.
I like being married to my husband, so I got professional help. It helped. Here are a couple of the tricks in my fear-of-flying arsenal now:
- Read Psalm 139 in its entirety as soon as I board. Though written down perhaps 3,000 years ago, it is tailor- made for white-knuckled flyers. How did the Psalmists know?
- Clutch and smell a lavender stress ball.
- Put on bubblegum pop if we encounter turbulence—and dance along with the bumps.
One more of the things that has helped the most is this book by a former anxious flyer, especially her line to this effect: “As you get ready to take off, imagine yourself at your destination. Whatever has happened during the flight, you have arrived safely. If you could just know for certain now what you will know then, you will have spared yourself a lot of unnecessary suffering.”
Whatever you are afraid of in this life—spider, clowns, falling, dying—this wisdom applies. All of us will arrive at our final destination, perhaps a little bumped and even bruised, but safely home with God. So: why bother worrying?
God of heaven and earth and everything in between, 36,000 feet feels like everything to us, but it’s nothing to You. Be with us in our ascending and descending, in our beginnings and our endings, and give us, amidst our fears, an underlying certainty that You are with us and all will be well. Amen.
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister of the First Church of Berkeley, California, and the author of the best-selling Real Good Church and Standing Naked Before God.