Sunday, May 1, 2011

Quit Your Flapping

Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;

but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;

they shall mount up with wings like eagles;

they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:30-31

Ok, so I’ve never seen an eagle up close and personal. But, I have seen hawks. Massive hawks. Wasn’t more than an hour or two after I posted Monday’s blog that I saw them. In our neighborhood, they are a familiar sight. I am intrigued by them. Their sometimes eerie presence also conjures up images of pure freedom. I watched them soaring over roofs, skimming treetops, leaning left and right, gliding slowly lower, almost falling, and then suddenly rising as if by some invisible but powerful force. Surprised, I observed that they were not flapping their wings. Really. Those big birds were traveling large distances, moving up and down, and they were not working at it one bit! I kept watching. An occasional single flap would keep them afloat, but, for the most part, they looked as if they were resting in the sky. I was baffled.

I have never understood flight. On Thursday, I was waiting at the Austin airport to get on a big plane. My flight was delayed (6 hours!) due to some pretty severe weather on the East coast. Not like I needed another reason to be nervous about putting myself into a tin can and hurtling myself through the air at 30,000 feet. I utterly deplore it. I don’t get it. How does a plane stay in the air? A friend who is an aerospace engineer explained it to me once. I have been to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. And, I still don’t get it. It is more accurate to say that I don’t believe it! I am not afraid to die. But, I am absolutely, unequivocally afraid to fall. I don’t like the Tower of Terror at Disney World (why is it fun to pretend you are on a haunted elevator that is broken?). I will be honest. Getting on that plane required an immense amount of trust.

Have you ever thought for a minute about how very many things in life require our trust? Not only did I have to suspend disbelief that a plane that heavy could get off the ground, but I had to trust that the people who built the plane and who maintain it had done their jobs well. Every time we drive on the highway, we trust that other drivers will stay in their lanes.  Last week, I paid an electrician an exorbitant amount of money to fix a short in a breaker. I think he most certainly overcharged me for his 20 minute stint at my house. But, what do I know about the value of an electrician? All I know is that a whole wall of plugs didn’t work, and I didn’t know how to fix it. Have you ever taken your car in for a tune-up? Gotten that long list of things they just “have” to do to your vehicle before you leave? Seen the bill? How do you know they are telling you the truth? I, for one, know I don’t. I have to trust they are getting a fair wage, and I have to trust that when they put new tires on my van they did it right and those very same tires won’t just fall off three miles down the road.

As I write, I am about to get in a New York City taxi cab and travel back to the Newark airport. Talk about trust! I will be hopping into a car with a strange man I may not share a language with to go to a place with which I am completely unfamiliar. Have you seen how crazy these drivers are?! I am surprised there are not more pedestrian fatalities in NYC. The cab drivers actually speed up when they see someone crossing the street.

The list goes on. Truth is, life is just one trust exercise after another. We don’t realize it because we are conditioned to go about our business and accept the way things are. Besides, if you think about it too hard, you get paralyzed by fear.

If my life in the last few years has taught me anything, it is that we are all—each and every one--under the illusion that we have control. We claw for a sense of power because we feel too vulnerable when we realize how very little control we have over our lives. Life’s not all about me and my own success, ability, strength, striving, and plans. I am not the only variable. I have no choice but to trust.

This makes me uneasy. And, if you are honest, it makes you uneasy, too. I like to know what to expect. I want to have at least a reasonable expectation of what is going to happen. I like to think that if I try harder, work harder, and think harder that it will make a difference. Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. People are not always trustworthy. Sometimes they make mistakes. Sometimes they cheat you. They are dishonest. They are weak. They cannot see into the future. People are not fully trustworthy. Things are not reliable. They break. They deteriorate. Things are not fully trustworthy.

So, how do I face my life and its uncertainties? How do I get on the plane, so to speak?

I can play the game of odds. It is very unlikely that my plane will fall out of the sky. More people die in car accidents. Look how many planes fly every day and get where they are going.

I can rely on intellect. I can go and interview my engineer friend again and get all the facts about physics…learn about lift…better grasp that it is a good thing for the wings of the plane to flex wildly in the wind so they won’t break.

I can distract myself. I can play my music, read, doodle, write, do anything and everything not to think about the ugly truth: I am not in control of the plane.

Or, as my psychiatrist suggested several years ago, I can medicate myself before a flight. I know some people need this, but my doctor suggested it even though I didn’t mention a thing about being scared to fly. She just assumed that since I was on anti-anxiety drugs already I would need more for a flight! She could not have been more wrong. I refused her oh-so-kind offer. Even if I had taken drugs to numb the jitters, I would have been ignoring my inner battle with trust.

Don’t we all ignore that inner battle with trust? At least sometimes?

This week a dear friend of mine had another heartbreaking miscarriage. I cannot begin to tell you how sad I am for her to have to walk down this path…again. I love her heart and her courage and her willingness to be shaped by her pain. She is really battling through this experience with authenticity and faith. As we sat having lunch, she told me something interesting about her grief process. Shortly after she became aware that the baby’s heartbeat had stopped, she felt a deep desire to organize her home. She made some real progress over the weekend, sorting her kids’ toys and getting things in order. She felt a great sense of accomplishment after she had put her energy into de-cluttering. It was, as I saw it, a really healthy thing for her to do with herself. But, she told me something that struck me:

“Admittedly,” she said, “I was reaching for a sense of control. I just wanted to feel like I had power over something.” How honest! And, oh, can I identify! Can’t you?

Nothing is at all wrong with what my friend did to soothe her pain. She has most certainly addressed her inner battle with trust, time and again. If she hadn’t, she wouldn’t even be aware that her frenzied cleaning was an attempt to control her situation…if even just a little. But, I wonder…How many people spend a LIFETIME doing this kind of self-soothing and never explore the real source of their fear? How many people rely on self-sufficiency, the game of odds, intellect, distraction, or drugs of some kind to dull the ache of vulnerability? I fear that many wounded people are walking around still unaware that they need someone in whom they can place all of their trust—someone 100% trustworthy.

If life is truly all about trust, then it is ALL about learning to trust God. Not an easy task, my friends…even for a Christ-follower. You see, growing in trust with God is only possible as we grow in intimacy with Him. We must KNOW Him in order to trust Him. There is far too much pain in the world, far too much uncertainty, far too much that is unexplained to place our trust all nilly-willy like in a God we don’t know. So, I have no problem when people say that they don’t believe in or trust God. Of course they don’t. They don’t know Him. I wouldn’t trust Him either.

But, here’s the thing: I do know Him now. The Bible says He is near to the broken-hearted. It is so true. I have sought Him in my pain, and I have found Him. That is another promise of the Word. Those who seek Him find Him. I will be honest with you. I am not in love with God’s plan for my life. In fact, I hate a lot of what He has allowed. But, He has also given me much to be grateful for…and I cannot ignore that. I am most thankful that I am now confident of His eternal plan for those who love Him. Yes, I know Him…more every day. And, I am learning to trust Him. Psalm 91:4 says that His faithfulness is a shield. I can’t honestly explain the rest of the Psalm, but I do identify with the writer’s understanding that God’s faithfulness is his protection. I can trust God because He is faithful. I still have trouble getting on that plane. And, I don’t like feeling vulnerable any more than the next guy. But, I know now that those other methods of self-protection just don’t work. I have no choice but to trust God.

If you don’t know God intimately, may I invite you to seek out who He really is? I have found that the God of the Bible is absolutely trustworthy. That doesn’t mean we won’t suffer. ..even more than we already have. But, I believe that God’s plan for us and His great love for us will far outweigh the troubles we see in this life. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18) As Christians, that is the truth we profess. And, it is the ONLY thing that compensates for our pain. It is the only thing that soothes our vulnerability and conquers our inner battle with trust.

You see, many people will tell you that the answer lies in being tough and smart. Only the weak need God. Only the stupid believe in Him. On the contrary! I believe with all my heart that the smartest among us…the strongest…are the ones who are the most surrendered. Look again at the eagle (ok, the hawk!). Watch how he soars. He does not grow weary or faint. He relies on the invisible power beneath him. He has quit his flapping.

No comments: