Dory: He says it’s time to let go! Everything’s gonna be all right!
Marlin: How do you know!? How do you know something bad isn’t gonna happen?
Dory: I don’t!
- Finding Nemo
This weekend I had an opportunity to fly far, far away to a place I'd never been with people I'd never met. I'd been planning to attend this small conference with Beth Moore -- who has been a crucial spiritual influence in my life for a long time -- and women from all over the country for well over a year.
First I had to get there.
Here's the thing: I can be an airhead. I can be, well, blonde (I am blonde, after all!). And I have a tendency to let other people do things for me and to avoid tasks that are difficult or confusing. In the past, every time I've flown it's been with someone else, and I've let them figure out everything. Not only that, but I used to have a pretty major fear of flying; the type of fear in which I somehow believed that by keeping my eyes opened and fists gripping the armrest the entire flight, I was somehow preventing the plane from crashing.
The first step changed everything. I parked my car, found a shuttle and went through security without setting off any alarms. "Good job," the guard at the other end said to me for no discernible reason, except that God was giving me a wink.
I can do this, I thought, strengthened. It was a theme that echoed again and again over the next 48 hours. We sat on the tarmac and I watched them de-ice the wings. In the past I would have taken that as an opportunity to review every plane crash that had occurred during winter weather. I used to file these things away, you see. I'd read articles and watch the gory details on news stories and stock it all away as more proof that this world is really scary and bad things happen and how can God really be good?
In the air the sun was rising as we left home sprinkled with snow and soared over Long Island, with New York City glittering in the distance. We traced the coast south. I watched the trails of ships in the water and then the snow-like landscape of puffy clouds as we climbed beyond them. In Florida, I saw palm trees and green and then we were off again towards Texas.
I remembered the way my hands used to tense at any jolt, any bumpy bit of turbulence. I could feel the old habits try to come back, but subside. What had changed? What had changed in me?
I thought about my friend's old boyfriend back when we were in high school, the guy who was really into cross country running. One time we had gone out running with him and he had offered a critique. "Don't clench your fists when you run," he told us. "You'll stop the blood flowing. Keep your hands open."
Of course. I knew. I had lived a lot of my life with fists clenched, trying desperately to grasp hold of control, to hold on desperately to my will, my opinions about who God should or shouldn't be and what He should or shouldn't do. Hands held in the closed posture can never receive anything.
Not even grace. Or freedom from fear.
"Perfect love casts out fear." The verse made so much more sense to me now. If we believe that God is good and loving, and loves us, how can we fear what will happen to us? If we believe all things work together for good, how can we live in fear and torment about a plane crashing? A business failing? A bad report from the doctor?
I kept staring at my open hands, letting go.
And then we landed and I found a rental car and drove on strange highways and got a little lost and checked in at my hotel and talked to more strangers and found the massive church and met lots of ladies and realized all along, I had had it in me.
I guess I shouldn't have been that surprised when Beth Moore spoke about just that theme. About us knowing what to do but sometimes not doing it, and then losing ground in our walk with God. About the fact that most of us don't have a knowledge problem, but an obedience problem.
And some of us have a belief problem: that God is who He says He is...that God really loves...and that can cloud everything you know up in your head.
The worship leader, Travis Cottrell, got up on the stage Saturday morning and said, "I feel God wants to impart courage to many of you this weekend." Then he joked, "You don't want me to do my Cowardly Lion impression, do you?" And he did it, spot on, straight from The Wizard of Oz.
There it was again, that truth, just like in the story of Dorothy and her friends. They'd had the ability inside of them all along. They'd had the heart...the brain...the courage. They just had to believe and walk the thing out. Just like each and every one of us. Sometimes the walking (or flying) is the hardest part. But it's the only way to actually get anywhere.