Growing up, I was a frequent flyer, bouncing back and forth between Los Angeles and New York City. I have fuzzy memories (reinforced by family members) of walking up and down the aisles of American Airlines flights, introducing myself to adults, and departing the plane with a new list of “lady friends” and “friend boys.”
Flying wasn’t something I was afraid of because I didn’t know there was any reason to be afraid. Then I learned that planes crash. Sometimes, they stop flying and explode. When I heard that, my flippant flying attitude and my perusing the plane for friendly grown-ups, turned to straight panic and tears. I was glued to the seat. I was scared to breathe. Surely, I was about to die at every take-off and every beep-boop ding and seat-belt sign flash and “Please take your seats. We’re experiencing some minor turbulence.”
Mommy, turbulence means we’re dying, right?
I was only five, my oldest daughter’s age, when that fear was at it’s most intense. I remember, one particular day, crying my way onto another five-hour flight with my mom, and her trying to talk me down. Then, like an angel from heaven, a seasoned flight attendant leaned over and put her face level with mine.
“Oh Dear, you don’t have to be afraid of crashing. Don’t you know there are springs on the bottom of airplanes? If they fall out of the sky, the giant springs bounce them right back up into the air! There’s nothing to fear.”
And that’s all I needed. That sweet, sweet lie.
I don’t like the idea of lying to kids to make them feel better temporarily, because little five-year-old Scarlet grew into bigger Scarlet who one day realized that no one is safe from life’s turbulence, and I couldn’t handle it.
The reason airplane springs are on my mind is because my five-year-old, who might fly to China to pick up our daughter, Joy, with us in a few months, caught a snippet of sarcastic conversation that was intended to stay between adults. Brandon and I were talking flight routes and mostly-joking as we discussed whether we’d rather crash over the North Pole or Russia.
“Mommy?” she said, approaching me from out of thin air (she always does this when I’m having conversations I think/hope she not hearing), “I don’t think I want to go to China anymore to get Joy…I don’t want to die in a plane crash.”
And I looked at her, and decided right then to tell her the sweet truth instead of a sweet lie.
I told her that plane’s crash. And sometimes people die in plane crashes. But, hardly ever. I told her (unsure as I said it, whether it was a good idea to keep going) that a few years ago a man in Florida died in his bed because a sinkhole opened up under his house. I told her that meteors have fallen from outer space. And that people die in car crashes, even when they are making good driving choices. I stopped there. 😊
Then, I told her that God, who loves us so much, is in total control of everything.
I told her that if God wants Mommy or Daddy or her or anyone else in heaven, it doesn’t matter if they are on a plane or in their bed or watching TV or in China. I told her that Jesus is the only One who has power over life and death. I told her that He defeated death on the cross. He walked out of His own grave. I told her that if He has work for our family on earth, He is strong enough to keep that plane in the air and protect us.
I reminded her that He so loves her.
I told her that bad things happen in this broken world, but that Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). I told her that for followers of Jesus, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).
I said these things, fully expecting them to not help or fly over her head or maybe even make things worse.
But, the Holy Spirit took His Words, and cast out my little five-year-old’s fears with His perfect love (1 John 4:18). With His very own Word. Just like that.
“Oh! Okay,” she chirped, “I still want to go to China, then.”
The sweet Truth trumps any sweet lie I can come up with, on the fly.
I really don’t want to crash over the North Pole or Russia, but I don’t have to be afraid. God proves to me every day that He is real and that He really loves me and that He is in control and that I can trust Him.
I’m thankful for my kids, who remind me of what I believe. And I’m thankful for God – the Author of everything good, the Fixer of everything sad, the Finisher of every good work, and the Father who so loves us.