“For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.” – Leonardo Da Vinci
You are feeling every crack in the pavement, your head plastered to the headrest behind you as you race down the runway. Then, suddenly, a jolt in your stomach and all the jostling stops. The first time you go airborne is something many people never forget. It is a feeling unlike anything else: unconstrained, exhilarating, surrendered.
In Shauna Niequist’s book, Savor, she compares faith to being out at sea. I agree, but I would take it a step further and say:
This journey we’re on is less like following a GPS through a precise grid of city blocks, and more like being aloft in a plane: unconstrained, nonlinear and unpredictable, requiring constant assessment and adjustment.
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” – 2 Corinthians 5:7
All humans carry the instinct to trust what we can see, hear, touch, taste, smell. Indeed, our senses keep us alive! But when our awareness only extends to the tips of our toes, our feet will never leave the ground.
When we only trust our eyes, we only see a small portion of this world; our five physical senses are the easiest to trust, but not always completely reliable. This “seen realm,” to which our senses are fully attuned, is not where God often shows up. Rather, He is always at work in the unseen realm: shining light in the darkest corners, breaking chains of lifelong addiction, fighting battles over lost hearts.
Taking His hand in faith, we are given access to this realm, a feeling much like going airborne off the runway. Unfamiliar, but strangely natural.
But when we are aloft, sometimes we long for the city blocks. We try to press God over our divine waffle-maker, squeezing Him into our compartments, each with equal sides and square corners. We want our journey to be perfectly spelled out every step of the way, each turn predicted, every leg measured. But you can’t fit an omni-dimensional God into a two-dimensional box. It’s like trying to drive an airplane through gridlocked city streets. He simply can’t join you there.
Instead, He continues to beckon you upwards into His realm, where He longs to dwell with you, where feet may fail.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” – Jeremiah 17:9
After our five senses, we next tend to trust our feelings; “Follow your heart!” “Go with your gut!”
Like senses, feelings are crucial in our lives: alerting us of danger, initiating our relationships, carving out the ebbs and flows of day-to-day life. But like senses, they can’t always be trusted. Yes, the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts and has great influence over our feelings, but there are other forces at play as well: the enemy and our own flesh. The enemy wants nothing more than to lead us away from God (1 Peter 5:8). Our flesh consists of sinful desires: pride, greed, strife, envy, malice (Galatians 5:19-21).
So what are we to do? Admittedly, I tend to suppress my feelings in favor of my logic, effectively choosing my mind over my heart. But resorting to this lower form of reasoning is truly no better, for it still leaves no room for God.
When a new pilot is being trained, he is warned about the “death spiral,” which is when a pilot accidentally crashes a plane into the ground. It occurs when conditions prevent him from seeing the horizon, so he gets disoriented. Though he feels like he is climbing, he is really crashing. According to Wikipedia:
Flying by “the seat of the pants”, and failing to recognize and/or respond to instrument readings is the most common way an airplane controlled by a pilot hits the ground.
His feelings fail him. In our flight of faith, we too have instruments that can orient us and assess the veracity of our feelings: the Word of God. This tool can always be trusted to reorient and direct us and we should test every feeling against its reading.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. – Hebrews 11:1
There is a third dimension, above both instinctual senses and intellectual feelings: impossible faith. This is the path that leads to the free life we seek.
If you’ve spent much time at an airport, you know it must operate as a well-oiled machine. Planes are constantly taking off and landing on a limited number of runways, each with their own schedule and direction. Yet collisions are incredibly rare. How? At a large airport, surely it would never work for each pilot to talk on one channel, informing each other of their plans. Rather, there is one entity that sees and controls it all: the control tower.
The pilots must place their trust in the tower, even when it’s inconvenient. And in return for the surrender of control, they receive complete protection and peace that the runway will be clear for them.
We must be in constant communication with our Control Tower, for He alone sees it all and can be completely trusted. Not just the three dimensions, but all places for all time.
We will never freely fly without first willingly yielding.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:6-7
All the photos in this post were taken by my amazing husband: pilot and amateur arial photographer. You can see more of his photos here.