Face Pressed Against the Airplane Window
I love traveling by air. With the exception of a Greenville to Charleston flight with my dad that I can barely remember, I didn't fly on a plane until I was 19. So maybe it's not commonplace to me yet. The fact that there is a place that is basically a portal to other places all over the country and even the world is kind of magical. I walk through the terminal and see the names of places I could go: New York, Portland, Chicago, San Diego, London, Rome, Paris, Tokyo. There is a single place that can transport me to all of those locations (if I had the money, which I don't but even still).
Then there is the actual act of flying. We speed down a runway at 180 miles per hour and escape earth's gravitational pull. We ascend above the clouds and soar at 10,000 feet; achieving something that humanity could scarce dream of for generations. We hurtle through the sky at something like 540 miles per hour before descending back down to earth at a somehow controlled plummet to land. It's a marvel to me. Even wedged in a space too small for my six foot one frame between two total strangers, I still think flying is amazing.
Yet I noticed on my flight from Nashville to Charlotte yesterday that most people didn't share my enthusiasm. Some were bored and indifferent while others were openly irritable. Granted, I don't know what my fellow passengers had been through. Some may have been on their third flight of the day. Others could have wanted to just go home. I don't want to cast aspersions on folks, but it is interesting how something so amazing can become so commonplace to us.
There was one kid--maybe 10 or 11 years old--to whom the flight was not run-of-the-mill. When most people had their windows closed or eyes averted at takeoff, he was recording our ascent with his phone. He did the same when we landed. And in between, his hands and face were pressed against the window absorbing the sky and the land far below like a sponge. I figured he would get bored with the view eventually, but I glanced back between chapters of my book and he was still transfixed by the view. He seemed to be filled with awe, which is kind of remarkable for a kid living in 2016.
When Jesus told his followers that they needed to have faith like little children, I think this is part of what he was talking about. Certainly the main idea is that we are to trust God as fully as a child trusts his or her parent. But I think that faith sparks to life when it is filled with awe. In its actions, that faith screams out, "Don't you realize something amazing is happening here?" The faith of a child is filled with curiosity, wonder, and excitement.
We need that. God and faith and church can become so commonplace to us. And I am not by any stretch saying that we must be in awe at all moments. It would be kind of odd if we went through life mouths agape and stunned at the whole experience. I'm not sure you go through the gauntlet of life and pull that off (but maybe you can, I am frequently wrong).
But you and I are each one person on a planet of six billion people on an infinitesimal blue speck is the vast expanse of space. Yet God cares for us. Yet we get to experience love and laughter and pain and get to wrestle with meaning. It can all seem like drudgery and commonplace, but there need to be moments when that childlike faith flickers to life and we realize that something amazing is happening here.
When we have those moments, it can change how we view the world and beyond. That kid's awe changed my flight. Despite having to wait on the runway for half a hour, being packed like sardines with strangers, and listening to the drunk guy behind me take way too long to answer trivia that I knew, he reminded me how amazing it is to fly. We need those moments where we realize how amazing it is to experience God and life.