We were told a flight would be waiting to take us from San Pedro to Belize City when we left the fishing lodge at Ambergris Caye. We weren't told it was a 14 seater plane. Because we were sitting closest to the exotic fish tank in the tiny airport, we happened to be the first in line when they called for our color coded boarding pass. Being first in line won me an invitation to ride beside the pilot in the cockpit. I had to take off my back pack and practically crawl to get up there.
Our gracious Belizean pilot extended his leathered hand and introduced himself as Milo. He pointed out all of the gadgets and screens, explaining what each of them did and what they meant. I froze when it was time to take off as he pointed upward instructing me to "start her up." I laughed, relieved, when my eyes followed his finger to the ceiling and discovered that he was pointing to the air conditioning nozzle. Pleased with his joke, which I'm sure was tried and true, he then flipped a few switches, said something barely comprehensible to the cabin through his headset, and I watched his large hand manually turn the wheel to raise the plane up for take off as we sputtered down the runway and lifted into the air.
It wasn't a super smooth flight. The breathtaking views of the crystal clear water and colorful cinderblock homes were quickly obscured by clouds. For a while we couldn't see anything. Then heavy rain began to pelt the windshield. I glanced back down at all of the monitors and controls. I could see exactly where the plane was and exactly how long was left in the flight. Our descent brought us out of those opaque clouds and through those rain drops on the windshield I watched as we turned nearly sideways to circle around towards the runway. I felt the wheels hit the ground. Almost immediately upon landing, Milo opened his cockpit door quickly and shouted in spanish for something from a man on the ground in transportation safety apparel. He reached down to take something from the man and then turned to me to present me with my "wings." "Congratulations!" He shouted in a thick belezean accent, "You earned them!"
I smiled back and clasped the metal pin in my hand. Looking down at it I suddenly realized that this flight had been drastically different from any I had ever taken before. There was no flood of heat throughout my body as I felt the drop in pressure; no nausea as I anxiously awaited the wheels touching the ground. I wasn't soaked with sweat upon landing. Why? Why was it different?
Even though I was powerless to fly the plane, I think the fact that I could see and understand everything gave me some semblance of control. The pilot didn't make a single action that I couldn't take note of. And when the turbulence and weather came, his steady hands and calm eyes made it obvious that there was no reason to fear.
The Christian life isn't lived in the cockpit. We can't always see what God is doing and goodness knows we can't always understand. A woman in my ladies bible study this week said that the one reason she loves aging is that the longer she is alive, the more hindsight she has to see where God has worked things for her good and his glory in her life. She went on that the more she sees his faithfulness in hindsight, the more foresight she has that he will be faithful in the future. She's more sure of it every time she experiences it.
When you board a standard airline flight, sometimes the pilot may greet you as you board but its rare that you actually know the man who is flying your plane. You definitely can't see what he's up to, save the occasional cabin announcement, as you look out the window or distract yourself with a crossword puzzle or an audiobook. But we entrust our lives to him as we step onto that aircraft. It's not ever been easy for me to do that. In case you couldn't tell by the description, I'm pretty sure I have a minor panic attack every time I fly.
Between our miscarriage, shingles, a back injury, walking through grief with loved ones, senseless acts of violence, the failed marriages of friends, and other difficulties, this summer season of 2017 has left me with quite a few "whys." But as we walk out of it into a season of future unknowns, I've noticed that like my mentor friend from bible study, this summer of suffering has left me less anxious about what I cannot control on this flight of life.
I can't see what God is up to as any given moment in any specific situation, but I know his character and his greater plan of redemption. My faith in his goodness is not just grown by my experience, but by seeing it over and over in his word. I know that his promises can be fully counted upon because they extend back a thousand generations. I can close my eyes no matter how far I feel from the cockpit of his sovereign control and rest assured that he is working all things for my good and his glory. I don't need to see the flick of every switch and the trajectory on every monitor. The hand of my God revealed in the nail scared hands of his only son is enough for me to know that he is good and that he is for me.
The real beauty is not in recognizing that we are not in control, but in realizing that an all powerful completely good and loving God is. Even in the wake of disappointment and questions, I'm so thankful that I am not sovereign over my life, and that he is.