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Irrational Seasons


Anyone who knows me can attest that I have a love-hate relationship with flying. For most of my life, I loved it. Take me to the airport and I was a happy woman! But, in 2011, I developed an inordinate fear of flying. A highly emotional season coupled with one very traumatic trip resulted in a gripping fear of all things flying-related. Slowly, over the past six years, I’ve learned to work through those fears…though not without a very particular routine.

I like an aisle seat, for easy escape -- as if I can go anywhere should something unfortunate happen. A carefully compiled iTunes “flying” playlist. Noise-canceling earphones to help me during takeoff and landing. Direct flights whenever possible (even if it costs a few extra bucks) so I can minimize the experience.

In recent years, I’ve noticed something. Each time I fly, I tear up and sense a swell of emotions as I grip the armrests and focus on specific words from the songs. At first, I thought these emotions were an overflow of my fear. Upon closer examination the last couple of times I traveled, I began to realize they were coming from an inner peace. Almost as if I long to fly now because it provides an opportunity to trust God and encounter his mercies in ways I don’t on a more daily basis.

When I face my fears, I am never more uncomfortable…yet, I’m also never more drawn to Jesus.

The fears I encounter in flying place me in one of the greatest positions for receiving kind mercies and compassion from a God who loves me well. In those moments I have nowhere else to turn for comfort, and God always meets me there.

There are a few things I really don’t like about myself these days. I’ve confessed them to God repeatedly and asked for his help.

I can be in a room full of people and yet feel totally alone. I can carry a conversation, smile and nod. All the while, I feel like I’m not known or loved. I don’t know exactly where these feelings are coming from, but, I know I sense this aloneness acutely.

Thoughts about being criticized and un-liked have plagued my thoughts too. Again, I’m not entirely sure why. None of us love criticism, but for some reason, my experience of it has been heightened recently. I can be affirmed by a dozen people, and yet one person continuing to critique me or not speak to me crushes me.

I’m sure I could spend hours plumbing the depths of my heart and only grow more confused as to why I feel these things lately. I do know one thing from all the counseling interactions I’ve had with others – we all want to be known intimately and loved unconditionally. And I am no exception to that.

It might seem odd to connect my fear of flying with these current emotional instabilities. I guess my travels last week proved an opportune time to reflect on these things.

No one will ever be able to fully understand me. And I can’t possibly understand myself.

But I am known and understood and loved. When Jesus died on the cross over two thousand years ago, he secured for me a perfect love that never ends. And no fear I ever encounter can separate me from that love, nor can any other person’s opinion of me.

My soul is secure even when my emotions are not – especially when my emotions are not.

37 No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8)

Just as I encounter Jesus’ mercies in fresh ways when I face my flying fears, I can also encounter them when I sense the deepest measure of loneliness or criticism. My prayers as I continue to contemplate these things are that I would run to Jesus as quickly when I’m feeling alone or unloved as I do when I am fearful about flying. Those are the things I seek to imbibe to those I counsel, and they are no less needful truths for me.

We can analyze our emotions until the sun goes down. And even wake up in the darkness of night tormented by them. We can confess every sin we see in ourselves, and even some we don’t; but, that may not relieve us of the feelings we currently experience. We live in a fallen world, filled with brokenness and confusion. We are oftentimes irrational beings, stalked by darkness.

Every time we confront an emotion or thought that makes us doubtful or filled with uneasiness, it’s an opportunity to rest in the loving bosom of Christ. And his love does not disappoint us.

One of the songs I listened to on this recent flight was pivotal in helping me see these truths more clearly. 

Over the skyline to see the spheres
I lift my eyes to the heavens
Nothing sensible has yet appeared
In this irrational season;
But the light is wilder here
Out on the edge of reason
And Love burns bright and clear
Out where I cannot seize Him

All the way my savior leads me
To peace that’s past understanding;
Into the wilderness to find the streams
To know beyond comprehending
And the light is wilder here
Out on the edge of reason
And Love burns bright and clear
Out where I cannot seize Him

The night is darker here
Out on the edge of reason
But Love burns bright and clear
Out where I cannot seize Him

~ Audrey Assad, “In This Irrational Season”