Anyone who has ever traveled by air to a destination has probably encountered the nerve-rattling experience of air turbulence. This, by far, is something that makes me anxious as I travel by plane from one place to another. I have experienced some pretty severe air turbulence while in flight and during that time, thoughts can easily make me conclude the worst of outcomes. As a simple passenger of an airplane my knowledge, at best, is limited as to what air turbulence is and its true effects on an aircraft, which leads me to conclusions based on my perception at the time of my experience. When you are seated in an airplane, once you hear the ringing of the cabin’s bell with the lit “fasten seat belt” sign above and the captain speaking over the intercom, “we will be experiencing some turbulence ahead” the anxiousness of the moment begins to take effect, then the rattling ensues as drinks begin to splash, the crew takes their seats, and you find yourself being tossed around in your seat like a sack of potatoes; sometimes you feel like the plane is falling from the sky. The anxiousness quickly turns to panic and fearful thoughts seize your mind: “this is it, the plane is going to crash.” However, little do we know that just a few feet away in the cockpit the pilot is calmly maintaining composure, for he knows that turbulence is not an issue of safety, but simply one of convenience and comfort.
What the pilot knows is that air turbulence is neither a threat to the plane or its passengers. Air turbulence is an atmospheric phenomenon that at best affects the convenience of the passengers aboard the aircraft, not their lives. Our lack of knowledge and position of comfort as a passenger rather than a crewmember with responsibility is a disadvantage to us. We are left to make judgments based only on what we see and feel in the moment. These judgments can easily take us to a place of questioning the competency and ability of the pilots. These judgments can also lead us to doubt the integrity of the aircraft and make us decide never to fly again, or wish we had never elected to take the fight in the first place. When the pilot turns on the “fasten seat belt” sign and instructs everyone to remain in their seats, it is because he knows that the ride is going to get a little bumpy and there is a position we need to take as a passenger for our safety until the turbulence is over, but he is also counting on our trusting him to stay the course and get us through the uncomfortable ride of transition that we are about to encounter.
What is air turbulence? Simply stated, it is when there are drastic variations in atmospheric conditions within a certain distance and the aircraft in flight makes a transition from one set of atmospheric conditions to another. In the transition of one set of conditions to the other, an aircraft can encounter jolting turbulence and, to the novice passenger, the experience of transition can be frightening. Turbulence should never be misunderstood as a signal that the pilot doesn’t know what he is doing or sign to abandon the plane. It should be understood that it is a natural occurrence that may impose temporary discomfort and inconvenience, but with the skill, knowledge, and expertise of the pilot, and the durability of the aircraft, the transition will be made safely and we shall all arrive at our set destination.
As a church family, we have embarked on a new journey and on our flight we should expect to experience some turbulence as we make transitions from one set of conditions to another. However, these temporary moments of discomfort and inconvenience should never be misunderstood as signs and signals that everything is falling apart or coming to an end. As those who have chosen to take flight to the destination of God’s purposes, we must learn to trust those He has also elected to pilot the plane; they are aware of things that we are not and are equipped to guide us through the transitions so as to keep us on course and take us safely to the place of our destiny. Take your seat and enjoy the ride: we will all make it together.