he pulls me closer to his chest and places his hand on the back of my head, the way a father does for a child: protecting me, the way he always has.
the first bump was startling, but not scary. Turbulence on flights is a lot like frosting on cupcakes: expected.
The turbulence started out slow, even, then slipped into less predictability with greater dips and bounces, deeper and higher than the one before.
I pulled up the shade an inch or so to peek out the window. Below me, there was nothing but sea, blue water swirling thousands of feet below me. There were no clouds, but only invisible wind pushing 600,000 pounds weightlessly in directions it had not planned to go.
Fear pulsed in higher quantity than blood in my veins as the exit sign glowed red and the man next to me’s half-full Coke can leapt from his tray table over to mine. To relieve the tension, I laughed nervously and handed it back to him. The exit sign turned green.
I clenched my eyes shut and swayed with the dip of the plane. A soft voice reminded me of a busy restaurant in Holland, back when I was in undergrad, sitting in a booth across from a close friend’s dad. His dad had leaned toward me and said, “Don’t you ever forget: we can do the things that Jesus did. That gives us control of the weather, and healing, and warfare, and more, if we do it in His name.”
I stream-thought, desperately:
I command the sea to be calm in Jesus’ name. I command the wind to stop in Jesus’ name. I command the wind the stop in Jesus’ name. I command the storm to stop in Jesus’ name.
Somewhere behind me, a flight attendant screamed at a passenger, telling them to sit back down. It deepened the fear in me.
A rapid occurrence of thought in that moment caused me to realize that fear breeds fear, and fear causes people and situations to act in ways that don’t make sense. The plane dropped even more, tipping the now-empty Coke can onto its side. The wind picked up in a greater speed, bouncing the plane left to right, up and down.
I thought about the pilot, wondering at what level of turbulence does he start to feel afraid? I thought about the bark of the dog in the undercarriage before take-off. I thought about the owners of that dog, somewhere on this flight, thinking about their pup in this turbulence next to the suitcases down below. I thought about the passengers on that Malaysian flight a few years back, flying over an empty sea.
I thought about the heartbreak in this world, and forgot about the lack of hope that engulfs it as a new hope rose up in me. What the sea and sky needed wasn’t a command.
It needed a reminder.
And it was not so much, in that moment, about doing the things that Jesus did as it was about being reminded of the depth of who He is. It was a moment to remind the earth itself that its power is quieted by the power of a King.
“hey,” I whispered to the sea, out loud this time. I turned to the guy next to me, who was watching a movie on his screen. No flinch, no turn toward me.
“hey,” I repeated again. “hey sea and sky, why are you tossing and turning like this? Put your hope in God! We all wait in expectation for peace in this place, but you don’t need to act in this way… be still, and know who He is. He’s the creator of heaven, and the creator of you & me. There’s no sense in any of this behavior, remember who He is, it’s going to be okay.”
Three more large drops, perhaps the greatest they had been, then a sweet silence.
Stillness swept across me, and over the plane, as if we had crossed a boundary into a freedom greater than had been known before. I peeked back through the window, into the same view, the deep blue I had seen before.
I looked about me, the plane around me looked the same: the people, still watching their movies, still fidgeting with headphones, still sipping on warm orange juice and cold coffee.
They were still, and so was the wind.