Takeoff and Landing and Life
Flying—sitting in a tiny chair suspended at 30,000 feet—has a way of narrowing my focus to important matters; it puts me in deep thought. I think about the loved ones I left safe on the ground below; I worry that they’re worried.
I think about deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that can form in the legs of frequent flyers and, according to an article I once read in an in-flight magazine, aspirate to the lungs and cause death. But, mostly I think about life.
It’s fragile and painful and wonderful.
To me, flying highlights the experience of living. It represents the journey, the ups and downs, the turbulence of the everyday, the shared vulnerability with complete strangers.
The most beautiful metaphor for life I have experienced on an airplane was on a flight to Pensacola, Florida a few years ago. My mother sat on the aisle, my wife in the middle, and I sat by the window on a crowded plane headed south.
Tanya, my wife, does not enjoy flying, but her least favorite part is the takeoff. And as the pilot issued final call and headed towards the runway, I felt Tanya’s fingers clamp around my knee, eyes shut, teeth clenched. The faster we went, the more she tensed up, and as I looked over to comfort her, I noticed my mother placing her hand into Tanya’s sweaty palm, giving her something else to squeeze.
Eventually, the plane leveled out and reached cruising altitude and Tanya’s fear subsided. However, when we approached our destination, as the plane drew closer to the ground, fear set in again, but this time not for Tanya.
My mother’s neck stiffened and she forced her head deep into the headrest and closed her eyes, preparing for impact. Tanya, calm and alert, noticed this and, without hesitation, reached for my mother’s hand. She held it until the plane landed and slowed to a stop.
The roles had reversed. In less than two hours, the comforted became the comforter, and vice versa.
This is what we all long for in life, someone to be there in our moments of weakness and fear, and when the time comes that those heroes need our help, we hope to be there to offer strength.
Some need help with takeoff, others with landing. Either way we need each other.
This is the way God designed mankind to operate, as relational beings. To the believer this is not a helpful concept. It’s a command.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 ESV)
Jesus, the one who popularized the phrase, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” modeled this all the way to his sacrificial death.
It’s no coincidence that life works better when we look outside ourselves, and when we are surrounded by others who do the same. Through times of turbulence, of doubt and pain, it is nice to have a hand to hold.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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Photo Credit: Cem. k (Creative Commons)
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