So this happened.
One thing my close friends and family can say about me, is that they know what some of my deepest fears are. In fact, I am pretty open about my fears, and sometimes I may come across as anxious or fearful, but I like to think I am just more honest and vocal perhaps than the next guy. Because I’d be willing to bet he has just as many if not more, fears as me. He just doesn’t think about them, or like to talk about them as much.
Probably the biggest phobia I have right now is my fear of flying. I can’t tell you where it comes from, as I used to fly just fine! It wasn’t until about five years ago it started to develop. I am actually wondering if I have a fear of heights in general. The most scary and daunting situation to me is flying over the ocean, specifically the Pacific Ocean, mainland to Hawaii.
And yea, we live in Hawaii.
So, guess what, it is not easy at all for me to decide to fly back East. I have wondered many times if I will never again leave the Hawaiian Islands, which wouldn’t be so bad except all my family, and closest friends are very far away, and it is not affordable for all of them to come see me!
My husband and eldest son are currently on the East coast, and about to get on a United Airlines flight to come back home.
I have already decided as of a couple years ago that I will never fly United due to their horrible customer service. Statistics show them to be one of the “least safe” airlines due to mechanical failures and inability to keep up with proper maintenance. Whenever my husband books with United I get irritated, because he knows how I feel. (My flying preferences if you’re wondering, for safety and/or amenities is Virgin first, then Hawaiian. Alaskan Airlines and Jet Blue aren’t bad either.)
As I was driving home from dropping my daughter off at school yesterday, I had the radio on, and the D.J. mentioned something about a flight from San Francisco to Honolulu having an issue but landing safely. All day, I tried to ignore my curiosity what that was about. But as I was preparing for bed I thought to myself, “I’ll just look into that, after all they landed safely and didn’t give much detail on the radio so it couldn’t have been that bad, and perhaps knowing will actually help me feel better”.
Boy how wrong I was.
The story was basically the beginning of my worst nightmare. I went into a full-blown panic attack, the worst I’ve had in a long time. It was a United Airlines plane, same airline as my loved ones are about to board, and it happened over the Pacific Ocean on the way to Hawaii, as my worst fear is concerned, and thankfully, they were only an hour away from the Islands, as if they’d been much further out the situation could have turned out devastatingly.
How was I going to rest until I knew that my husband and son were safely back across the Pacific?! How was I myself, ever going to get back on a plane and cross over when one of my worst fears has now been proven true (thank God it wasn’t me on that flight!)? I immediately began looking for one way cruises from Honolulu to the mainland, so that I could give myself a [false] sense of peace, that I had other options if I ever need to leave.
Here’s the thing. I have read a lot about aviation, how the physics work, and what causes turbulence, etc. I know all the statistics about how safe it is to fly, and how many planes are in the air every day with no issues, and how rare it is for anything to happen. I have talked to therapists, and read about conquering fears, about how you aren’t supposed to feed your fears by avoiding them, but instead face them head on. I have prayed for this crippling phobia to be taken from me, so that I don’t have to worry or obsess over flying anymore. I have been on six different planes in the last five months, and will be getting on two more in a couple weeks (short trip to Maui). And I can tell you, that my fear is no less now than it was a year ago, quite the contrary, I am MORE terrified.
The last flight I took was actually very pleasant and not too horrible turbulence wise, but I was borderline hyper-ventilating for at least three of the six hours. It seems like an eternity up there in those planes where I feel trapped, and helpless, and terrified of plunging 40,000 feet into the ocean.
I was talking to one of my best friends about this today. He said, “May I submit to you, that this is actually proof that you are living by faith, despite your feelings?”
You see, my feelings say “Fear, terror, lack of control”, but my decisions so far have said “Trust, Obedience, Courage”. I have not felt courageous at all, while taking any of those six flights. As I said, I feel more scared today than ever. It seems that the advice of facing my fears was useless, because there has been no relief. It seems that the advice of reading statistics and about how planes are designed or work has been pointless, because for every 50 good statistics I read, I find that one horribly fatal one and then that seems to be the one that sticks out most.
Upon moving to Hawaii so many people have called me brave, courageous, and talked about the amazing opportunity and adventure we can find here. But really, this journey has been all about self-growth, and learning lessons. That’s it. That simple. Just as there hasn’t been any huge job landed, or perfect property opportunity, in my battle of this flying phobia there has been no huge release, or miraculous healing. And I am starting to wonder if I have to just be okay with that!
There’s a scripture from Paul in 2nd Corinthians where he talks about how he has had many revelations, and speaks much truth, but he won’t boast about himself because he has a thorn in his flesh that he has pleaded with the Lord to take from him. He believes that this struggle of his is not meant to be overcome quite yet because it keeps him from being conceited. “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And then he goes on to say, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
For me this thorn in my flesh has not gone away despite every attempt to face it and will it away. It would be amazing and nothing short of a miracle to never again have to worry about getting on a plane, or a loved one doing so. But that is not my reality. My reality is that it’s a very real and strong fear. Do I cower, and find ways around it? (I live on a tiny island now, so doing that doesn’t seem very fun or practical). Do I give in to my fear and cry every time my husband or children get on a plane, and refuse to ever step foot on one myself? Trust me, these are the thoughts and feelings that I have. I would miss a lot of things and people in the rest of my life, but it would be so easy for me to succumb to those feelings. It would be very comfortable.
Or do I continue to step out in faith. Faith in our airlines and the FAA that they are doing their jobs to continue to keep us safe. Faith in the steps that I take to conquer this giant in order to continue to live a life of freedom and truth. Faith in my God, and that His grace is sufficient, and with His power alone I can be truly, perfectly strong.
I still don’t have all the answers, I still don’t know when the time comes what I will choose! If I had to make a choice today, if I am honest, I think I would choose the cruise! But there is a lot to think about and consider in here. If you have any thoughts or comments on the topic of faith and/or fear I would love to hear them. You can message me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.
I would encourage you also my friends, don’t let fear hold you back. Whether it’s something as large and hindering as my fear of flying, or something smaller like reaching out to a loved one and apologizing, or something more creative like being afraid to give your all to an endeavor in whatever dreams you have.
Let’s put faith over feelings, and allow our lives to be true testaments of greater.