"That wasn't so bad."

“Isn’t that what our fears are always like? We think it’ll be worse than it actually is?” Josh and I had this conversation as the tires of our plane to Ghana touched down gently on the tarmac. The flights, all of them, really weren’t that bad. Nothing happened out of the ordinary. Even the ordinary turbulence that I had experienced on previous flights was worse than what we experienced on any of these flights going to or coming back from Africa. I had made it to Africa, after tossing my “cookies” in Northwest Arkansas and almost 20 hours of non-stop prayer. My fear of flying threw my body into a mandatory fast. The early flight to Atlanta, the 5 hour lay-over, the almost 11 hour flight over the ocean…I could only choke down a few graham crackers and a few sips of water or ginger ale. I chewed on gum the whole flight, partly because it was something to do, but mostly because my panic dried out my mouth, but my stomach couldn’t handle a drink…or anything for that matter. I can’t really explain my fear. It isn’t reasonable. You can’t convince me there is nothing to fear. There is no logic to it, it is a fear. The best I think I can describe it as is imagine yourself looking at a box. Now, this box, big enough for you to get in and sit, is filled with your fear. It will be dark and there will be no way out until someone on the outside lets you out. Is it filled with spiders or snakes? Maybe it will dangle off a cliff by a bungee cord. Will you learn that your child has died in there? Or maybe that you have cancer. What is your greatest fear? A stranger, a man, will be in there with you…is that a fear? Maybe it’s filled with water until all that’s left is just enough room to stick your nose up to breathe. Maybe you will die in there. Imagine your fear, whatever it is, inside that box. Ok, now someone beside you asks you to get in that box. You turn to your right and it’s God. Someone else asks if you would get in that box. You turn to your left and it’s your spouse. Calmly, lovingly, God says, “Trust Me. Everything will be alright. You will be blessed after it’s all over. Go on. Trust Me. Will you get in the box? Get in the box. I will protect you and take care of you. Trust Me.” You look at the box, knowing what’s inside. God has never let you down before, but the absolute LAST place you want to be is IN that box. In fact, as your stomach churns at the thought, you’d like to run the other way, in the opposite direction. Knowing that didn’t turn out too well for Jonah, you look around for help, but no one understands your fear…they are all stepping into their boxes like it’s no big deal. God says, “I understand your fear, my child, but I want you to understand my love. I want you to trust Me and receive my blessing. I know what will happen and I am telling you everything will be ok. Do you trust Me enough?” Do I trust Him enough? Do I? The day I prayed to receive Him into my heart I said I trusted Him with my life! What does that mean, though? He is all I need, He has the victory, Jesus came to set the captive free, take up my cross and follow Him daily…but what does that mean exactly? I thought I knew. I thought I had given Him every part of me. I always had a prayer in the quiet place, though…if in the face of death, I must choose between God and the world, “oh Lord, give me the strength to choose You!” Can I really do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me? Can I willingly walk into the furnace like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego? Will I take those first steps on water in the midst of a storm when Jesus calls to me to “Come.” Can I deny everything within me, every dream, every plan, every expectation, every fear, to become a follower of Christ? Is not the blessing He has for me so much greater than any success or award this world can give me? Do I trust Him enough? Enough that, even if I die, He has the victory. He has, me. To most, I guess, walking onto a plane is not facing death. It seems absurd to me that so many people would place their trust in a man-made vehicle to safely carry them a mile high in the air, across mountains, plains, and oceans…through stormy weather or clear skies, doesn’t matter to me. A vehicle in which one ill timed bird taking flight or one vibrating, loosened screw, can bring the whole thing to a crashing halt…literally. Not to mention, placing their trust in pilots who, lets all face it, aren’t always sober, who just flew who knows how many hours before or when they slept the last time and for how long? The morning of our first flight, the news was reporting two planes clipping one another in the air (I think, I did not, thankfully, see or hear this before or during our trip…Josh told me after we got home.) Which brings me to another person(s) people are putting their trust in, the air traffic controllers. How old are they and how many days have they been working up there? You don’t know. Did they miss that day in class when the instructor taught about how to keep planes from “clipping” wings with another plane?? I know, lame. But again, the fear is not rational. The fear is real. And it’s inside that box. And God is asking you to get inside. I knew if I could answer that I had complete trust in Him that He would safely see me through this, I could not place my trust in anything else…including drugs. Everyone suggested I pop a couple pills and drift off to La-La Land. The problem is, the fear starts long before getting in that box and, having never taken those pills, what if it only makes the anxiety worse because now I not only know I’m on a plane, but I can’t control my body or emotions or thoughts because I’m so loopy! No. If I was going to do this, I had to place my complete trust in God alone, not in a drug, not in the captain, not in the plane itself, not in the air traffic controller, not even in my husband who so gently encouraged me and held my hand through all the ups and downs. My prayer went something like the old Irish blessing, “God, go before me. God, go after me and beside me. Jesus, be my pilot. Send your angels, BIG ones (I had to laugh at myself for that one), to carry the wings of this plane. I plead the blood of Jesus over this plane. Part the clouds, part the turbulence, make it a smooth ride all the way. And even if not, I trust in You.” Rinse and repeat. A LOT. Over and over. And add a few prayers that went something like, “Just get me off this plane. Get me down. Help me! Get me through this. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Make it stop, Lord. Make it stop.” And so on… Such is my war on my fear. I hate my fear. I want to enjoy flying. I want to be able to visit many places all over the world with my husband. I enjoy travel, I just hate the flying. If I didn’t have this fear, how would that change my life? I grew angry at Satan. I envisioned the bondage, like handcuffs, around my wrists. I wanted to be free of it, I prayed to be free of it. It would be my miracle, my blessing. Funny thing about God’s blessings…it’s a gift from Him by His choice, not ours. He knows what is best for us, we don’t. The blessing I wanted was not to be, not yet anyway. He had something else in mind. I knew it must be good. It must be amazing if it’s better than freeing me of my fear of flying. But first, I had to obey. I had to get in that box and face my fear, live it, and walk away from it. If I did not obey, I would miss out on His blessing. If I obeyed, I had to walk willingly into the furnace…I had to take that first step out onto the water…I had to sit through almost 13 hours of flight time. No way around it, no way out. I had to do it to obey. Lovingly, always lovingly, God reminded me of His faithfulness. The timing of our trip to be during our 15th annivers
ary that we had hoped and dreamed we could spend together in an amazing place, the exact amount of money coming in at just the right time…twice, the plan to be able to see and love on the boys we sponsor, a kind sister who identifies with my fear to see us off, a sweet stewardess who offers a word of encouragement before taking off, a ray of sunshine after the rain just in time to take off, an offered prayer by one of the team members just for me and my fear. There were other moments, a letter from my friend and the organization’s founder, Kristie, read over the ocean. The numbers, of which I have grown to look for, 11:11 reminding me how much God loves me, 3’s in multiples, reminding me of perfecting and multiple blessings. I have not always looked for God speaking to me through dreams or numbers or nature, but I have found, indeed, if our eyes are open to it, He can and will. It is very special. I made it to Africa and I made it back. I am not so foolish as to say, I did this on my own…it is by the grace of God alone that I could have made that trip. If it weren’t for Him in my life, the trip would have been pointless and my fear would have definitely kept me from going. My challenge for you is, what box is God asking you to get into? His promise to you is the same. “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” For the rich man, selling all he had and being “poor” was his fear. Even though Jesus told him he would have treasure in heaven, he could not do it…he was bound by his fear, he could not get in the box. Don’t be like the rich man. Trust God. You will know when He asks you to get in your box, to face your fear. On that day, trust and obey…your treasure will be in heaven. He has blessings stored up for you! Don’t miss out on those blessings because you are too afraid to take that first step. It’s not easy. You will feel like you are dying. A part of you will be dying…the Refiner’s fire takes away the blemishes and leaves the beauty. Die, and take up your cross for Him. Live for Him. Be blessed by Him. Looking back, you will probably find yourself saying, “That wasn’t so bad.”

 

 

Huge thank you to Kathryn Cottrell for sharing her heart and experiences from the Feeding the Orphans mission trip just two weeks ago.  Thank you to each person who served the children and people of Ghana for two weeks.

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