Sunday, July 5, 2015
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ― Nelson Mandela
My very first airplane flight was in the early sixties when I flew via Trans-Texas Airways (long since defunct) from Alexandria, Louisiana, to Abilene, Texas, with a change of planes at Love Field in Dallas, Texas. The planes were twin-engine DC3’s, tail draggers left over from WWII. In Dallas, while waiting to take off, the pilot asked us to get out of the plane (they hadn’t learned to say “deplane” yet). We got out and could see that one engine was on fire. They took us back to the terminal on baggage carts until another plane was ready. This sort of thing doesn’t fill one with confidence. Many years later I was flying into Boston and as the flight attendants passed me, I overheard one of them say, “I didn’t hear the gear go down, did you?” Of course, they just meant that they didn’t get the audio clue to take their seats, but they left me thinking we were going to crash land. We landed safely, but I was not happy. I didn’t like to fly (still don’t) but rapidly became a “white knuckle” flier—that is someone who is so afraid he or she grips the arms of the seat so tightly that the knuckles turn white from lack of blood. I was flying to Lima, Peru, about fifteen years ago for a mission trip and was sitting next to a Peruvian pastor. As I was wearing my clerical collar, he knew that I, too, was clergy. He also noticed my white knuckles and asked me, “Are you afraid?” I had to admit that I was less than confident. He then told me that as a man of God, if the plane crashed and he died, then he would be with Jesus. I said that I believed that, too. He then said that if the plane landed safely, he would continue to serve Jesus. I agreed with him again. He then asked me, “So what is the downside? If we die we are with Jesus, if we live we serve Him.” My hands relaxed and let go of the armrests, and I have never been afraid of flying since. I still don’t like being cooped up for nine hours at a time and squeezed into seats that are several inches narrower than the part of me that is stuffed into them. Still, the same thing that pastor told me about flying is also true of life, isn’t it? Worst case, you get to be with Jesus. Best case, you get to serve Him. Ain’t no downside to authentic Christianity. Never has been, never will be—and you can take that to the bank.