Taking Off

I got to my gate about an hour-and-a-half before take-off. A combination of arriving at the airport with plenty of time to spare and the disability-related assistance from security personnel had hurried me along, and now all I had to do was wait. I pulled a book from my carry-on and settled in for some uninterrupted reading.

Awhile later, I checked my watch. Seeing that they would be boarding the flight soon, I texted my friend who would be waiting for me on the other side. I told her that everything looked good and that I would see her in a few hours. No sooner had I sent the text than an announcement was heard over the intercom. Our flight would be delayed because they were short a crew member. They assured us they were figuring it out and it would be a brief delay.

About an hour later, they started boarding some of us onto the plane. I was one of the first to find my seat since people with disabilities are often given extra time to get settled in. It seemed that the boarding process took forever. I watched from my seat as passengers struggled to find space for their luggage in the overhead bins and then gradually made their way to their seats. The flight attendants gave their pre-flight speech, and finally, we taxied down the runway… only to stop!

I could hear the groans from nearby passengers. What was going on? Why had we stopped? We had already been delayed over an hour! What now?

The captain’s voice could be heard over the PA then: “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to need to go back to the gate. Some of your luggage was not loaded, and we need to retrieve it.”

I let out a nervous but relived laugh. I knew there had been some space concerns on this flight and that many of the passengers had to check their carry-ons. I was glad to have boarded first and secured my carry-on in an overhead bin. I was sure the other passengers were also relieved to know their luggage wouldn’t be left behind. We were already delayed, and at that point, I didn’t see a few more moments making much of a difference.

We finally took off, and I think everyone was content at that point. But as we neared our destination, we learned that we would not be able to land right away. There was a tornado warned storm in the vicinity, and we would need to circle the airport before we could land safely.

I looked down at the swirling, black-green clouds and shuddered. I wondered if our flight delays had any effect on our landing time. Had there been storms in the area earlier that day? Would landing almost two hours earlier, as planned, have made any difference? Or had God had a hand in our late arrival? I didn’t want to think about the alternative. It wasn’t often that flights came to a disastrous end, but bad weather was not something even the most experienced pilot wanted to contend with.

Twenty-five minutes later, we landed safely and I was united with my friend. It was the start of my highly anticipated vacation, and I quickly set aside the harrowing flight to enjoy my time away from home. I would think about the flight home later.

My pre-vacation flight delay came to mind recently when I saw a Facebook post from a pilot friend of mine. He had snapped a picture of the de-ice truck on fire prior to his flight’s departure. Since it was his first flight of 2016, he remarked that he wasn’t sure how this boded for the year to come. One of his friends commented that it was better that the de-ice truck caught on fire and not the aircraft.

Again, my thoughts went back to my own flight delay experience. It didn’t matter why the plain couldn’t take off; it had everything to do with the attitude and perspective. As I wrote earlier, I had no idea what the weather had been like at our destination earlier that day. In fact, I didn’t even ask my friend after I landed. I was just relieved that I had arrived, even though I was late.

Delays are frustrating; there’s no denying that. In fact, I have felt the frustration of delay recently, and although it has nothing to do with an air plane, I wonder about when I will reach my destination. Almost four months ago, when I resigned from camp, I committed to take some time away. I didn’t know what was next on my horizon, so I promised my friends and co-workers that I would take a six-month sabbatical of sorts before I jumped headlong into the next opportunity. Six months of reprieve— a vacation of sorts; it sounded so good to me at the time.

That is, until restlessness and too much down time settled in and I had no idea what to do. True, I had work to keep me busy, but there was much more free time now without the demands of the camp schedule. I knew I had at least two months left in my self-appointed sabbatical, and I was going stir-crazy. I just wanted to do something!

But in my time immersed in the Word and prayer, I kept coming up empty. I simply couldn’t perceive what God had planned for me in the future. I knew that I would continue leading worship, but was there something else that God was calling me to do? How would I find that something else? Did I need to go seeking after some opportunities, or should I wait quietly for God to reveal my next steps. I just didn’t know how to respond. How much effort did I need to put forward in this time of quiet discovery?

Even though the quiet and inactivity was becoming all too familiar and even frustrating, I began to perceive that this might just be the season I needed to walk through at this time. Perhaps it wasn’t my time to take off yet. It wasn’t just that my six-month sabbatical wasn’t up yet. It didn’t mean that when March 15 rolled around I would be required to jump into the first opportunity that would appear on the horizon. Maybe my sabbatical would last longer than expected. Had I ever contemplated that possibility? Not really. In fact, the reality didn’t sit well with me. I was already restless and feeling ready to spring forward.

But maybe it wasn’t time to go. Perhaps I needed even more rest. After all, when I left camp, I was pretty well burned out and pretty broken down. It had taken considerable time to mend my heart and take care of myself physically before I had begun to feel more like myself. In fact, my friends had just begun to comment about my more relaxed demeanor and optimistic outlook. I didn’t want to lose ground in this new season, so I began to contemplate a more prolonged rest.

It might not be my time to take off yet because it might be God’s way of protecting me from the flames of burnout. Perhaps the vision of the de-ice truck on fire can serve as a warning of sorts. Such a catastrophe can delay a flight for sure, but the flames don’t immediately endanger the passengers. But one misplaced spark could spell disaster for the plane itself.

I don’t want to be that close to the flame again. I need to heal completely before I am tested by fire of any kind. I don’t want one misplaced spark (my drive to move forward) set the fire to blazing too prematurely. I don’t need to be burned out before I can even get started.

So in this season of quiet and waiting, I need to be content with the delay. For just like the unknown weather conditions, one never knows what God might be up to! He is my pilot, and He knows the best time to take off toward my next destination. I need to be rested, ready, and willing to go when he tells me to buckle my seatbelt for the flight ahead.

One thought on “Taking Off

  1. Hi sweetie, hope to catch up with you some day soon! Glad you are posting and I do hope you are taking this season of quiet o.k. BUT…… I am anxious to see what’s next for you, love ya!!

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