I was wearing my derby hat and had a red sweater as I carried my two year old onto the plane. We passed the flight attendants, smiled cordially in that odd recognition that we would never see them again after 4 hours in this winged airborne tube. We followed mommy who was going to choose our seats. I must have been carrying 2 or 300 bags because I remember hitting every person in an aisle seat at least twice. (I think airlines designed the rows that way on purpose! You ever notice you can’t walk down that aisle without hitting every person with your backpack!)
When we found our row, Julia climbed into her seat with Steph’s help and I began unloading our pack mule. (Disclaimer: we didn’t really have a pack mule, those aren’t allowed on planes.) I settled into my seat and tried to push back my anxiousness while helping adjust Julia.
We spent the obligatory 4 hours waiting to push away from the gate. (Maybe it was only 20 minutes, but what are you going to do!?) Then we taxied away from the gate and took off.
Now let me just get a few things out of the way: 1- 2 tons of metal is not supposed to fly. 2- I don’t care about torque and the necessity of flexibility, I’d feel better if the wings did not bounce! 3- I know God is Sovereign, that is precisely why I hate planes, because if He decides I go home, then we go down in a blaze of not so glorious metal death trap. 4- Nasty peanuts and 2 ounces of coca-cola do not help! 5- What’s to point of fastening my seat belt if we’re being hurled through the air anyway!? 6- I am pretty sure planes were invented by the devil. 7- pilots are incredible men who do miraculous work, but… we are in a 2 ton metal tube… really!? 8- Can the two skinny metal rods attached to your chair rightly be called “arm rests?”
So, I have flight anxiety (not a medical term, I just made it up). For about a week before we fly I get that feeling in the pit of my stomach that feels like I’m not sick, but I’m gonna throw up. I have two daughters (Julia-2 and Elliana- 4 months). So being a dad, I have to be more concerned with their comfort than my own. I try to hide my anxiety and suppress my urge to squeeze the “arm rests.” I smile, talk softly, laugh, sing, occasionally look at my wife with that face that says, “you gotta handle this without me for a minute.” (Just a note: My wife is awesome and takes care of EVERYTHING.)
I knew this flight would be bumpy… I checked the turbulence forecast that morning. I was prepared to deal with it. I was not prepared for what God wanted to teach me.
As the plane began to feel the effects of turbulence, my two year old began to repeat a phrase: “I don’t like this… This scares me.” She didn’t scream or throw a fit, it was just a slightly panicked phrase she repeated at a reasonable tone. I could see the panic growing in her as I realized, she has her daddy’s anxiety.
I reached over and took her hand. She repeated her refrain. The turbulence got worse.
I pulled her close and held her tight. She repeated her refrain. The turbulence got worse.
I kissed her head and told her, “its ok, daddy’s got you.” She repeated her refrain. The captain turned on that stupid seat belt sign. The turbulence got worse.
And so on and so on. No matter what I did, I could not calm my child. I began to weep, hiding my face from anyone who may see, as my I-Pod played a song:
O Great God,
Merciful Savior You are
O Great God,
King of creation,
Hope of the nations You are
I knew the anxiety… I knew there is no cure… I knew my daughter would just have to wait in her daddy’s arms until it was over. I knew I could do nothing to help… she would just have to outlast the turbulence.
God seemed to whisper to me, “I hold you like this all the time.” To think, God knows our every anxiety and pain, and not like someone who just knows about them… He has felt them. He created them. He has been through more heartbreaking turbulence than you and I could imagine. He knows. He weeps to see us have to ride it out, and He holds us while we do.
After the flight we stood up to gather our things and Julia said, “This is a big cave. Where’s Grandma?”