Before the plane even backed away from the gate, the flight attendant gave us a disturbing warning: “It’s been a rough day in the air. Prepare yourself for tremendous turbulence.”
As those two words “tremendous turbulence” seeped into my mind, I found myself wondering if it was too late to make a run for the door. But since I was scheduled to speak at an event in just a few hours, I knew that wasn’t an option. So I tightened up my seat belt and said a prayer for safety.
All was well for about thirty minutes, until the warning became a reality. It was the worst turbulence I’ve ever experienced. It felt as if the plane were rocking back and forth, slamming into clouds full of hard matter instead of fluffy air, causing heads to bob and luggage to shift. When the stewardess began passing out “sick bags” to those who needed them, I wondered if I would soon need one of my own.
After a few unsuccessful attempts to land because of heavy storms and high winds, and after flying in circles around the airport for over an hour, we were finally diverted to another state and forced to land there. Eventually it all worked out, and although I was four hours late, I did get to my event just in the nick of time!
But during that stressful afternoon which seemed to last forever, I had time to do a lot of thinking.
I didn’t really believe we would actually crash, and knew that was highly unlikely. But ….. what if? What if the worst happened? Would I be ready to die?
I began to think about all of my loved ones. What were my last words to them? Were they kind, or were they harsh? Were they filled with love, or filled with instructions to carry out during my absence? Were they words that build up, or words that tear down? Did I hug everyone and tell them I love them and how much they meant to me? If I never made it back home, had I prepared my children spiritually and emotionally to be able to handle life, continue trusting God and walk in faith? Had I told my husband how much I appreciated him?
Did I have any unfinished business, unmended fences , or people I needed to forgive? Were there people I had been meaning to call or visit, but never took the time?
Had I done all I could to bring glory to God? Would I be ready to meet Jesus face to face?
I found myself consciously focusing on what was most important in life, rather than checking the time and thinking about everything on my to-do lists. I began thanking God for all the gifts He has given me, big and small, which is something God had been nudging me to do for several weeks.
I did remain calm in the midst of the airborne chaos, knowing God was in control. But I confess my mind was running a little wild on me, bucking with a mixture of thoughts and emotions, as I peered out the small oval window at the dark ominous clouds hovering underneath us. I wanted to remember which scripture verses taught about how God knows the number of our days and how life is short, so I began searching my Bible as I sat there trying to ignore the panic in the voice over the plane’s intercom. The first verse I came across was in the book of James.
James 4:14 says “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” In this chapter in James, we see James reprimanding the wealthy for their business dealings and how they think they have the power to make plans for making business profits, but they neglect to remember that God is really the one in control. They have also been quarreling, lacking humility, and judging others. Basically the people seemed so caught up in “doing life” and carrying out their important plans, that they forgot who actually controlled life and exactly how many days they got to enjoy it.
Just like them, how often I get caught up in “doing life” or even in “doing ministry” and forget to remember that no matter how many plans I make, only God knows how long He will allow us to carry them out. God gives and governs all of our time, then and now. This little time of reflection in the bumpy skies served as a great reminder to me not to take any of my time for granted, or always assume I’ll have another day, or another chance, to love on those I love most and serve God as best I can.
We aren’t supposed to live as we if have all the time in the world, which is what James was trying to communicate to the people. Instead as Christians, we should live knowing that every breath we take is just one more gift from God. We should make the best of the time we have, never assuming we’ll have tomorrow to do all those important things, tell everyone we love them, or decide to embrace God’s call on our life that we’ve putting off until “tomorrow”. And we should never assume we will still have time to share the gospel with that lost person, because not only are our days limited, but theirs are as well.
We are all called to live fully alive, without fear, knowing God is in control. But we are also called to focus on filling our days with love, living in God’s will, and spreading His message of hope to those we come in contact with. All the while knowing when the final day does come, we’ll be ready to meet God with open arms, a heart for Him, and no regrets.
What might you need to do today that you’ve been putting off until “tomorrow”? If today were your last day, what thoughts would fill your mind? Could today be the day to act on those thoughts, rather than putting them off?
Just something to think about.