For those who know where the title for this writing came from, no I did not make a mistake. This saying comes from Isaiah 43:31, which in the NIV translation says, “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.” I have always liked this verse. It speaks of endurance, of persistence, of God’s help, and to me, of peace.
When we lived in Nyeri, Kenya, we had a favourite hobby – gliding. We ourselves did not know how to or have the means to glide in a glider, but we had close friends who ran a gliding business for tourists at a local airstrip, not far from where we lived. There are perks to such friendships, and one of these perks we enjoyed was that when we would go for a family picnic at the local airstrip and watch the people enjoying gliding, if there was time after business was over, they often offered us a free trip up in the glider.
My first time up, I was not sure I would enjoy this. I mean, isn’t it dangerous to be up there in a ‘plane’ that has no engine? How does this work anyway? Besides all that, I have a ‘thing’ about heights (I think it’s called a phobia). But everyone kept working on persuading me and one day I decided I would prove I wasn’t a total chicken and agreed to go. On this particular day, storm clouds had begun to accumulate in the afternoon, so that there was quite a breeze and a growing bank of clouds heavy with rain. That, of course, added to my nervousness, but seeing as I had already agreed, I felt that to save face, I could not back down now. Ah…the things we do just to save face!
The winch pulling the glider up into the air gave a mighty tug and we were soon airborne, in the blink of an eye. That gave my stomach a shock! With the storm brewing, it was not long before our pilot friend found a good strong thermal current, which took us very high up. It was a bit disconcerting to see everything below becoming smaller and smaller and the dark, threatening clouds looking closer and closer. But then we stopped climbing and spent quite some time just gliding around, my friend pointing out this feature and that interesting item and explaining how gliding works. He obviously truly loved his work and exuded both passion and pleasure in it, with more than a touch of confidence. His enthusiasm was infectious, and I soon settled down and began to really enjoy the ride. Besides the beautiful scenery and the novelty of seeing things quite far away, the thing that struck me most was the peacefulness up there. There was no noisy engine…just the quiet whoosh of the wind blowing over us as we navigated current after current. We were up there about 45 minutes…one of the longest trips he had had with a client, because the thermals and currents were so perfect (in gliding, when you can’t find another current, you just come down). I was actually a bit nervous that my pilot friend might not be able to land! And yet at the same time, I was thrilled. It was not until we had landed, and I disembarked, my legs wobbling a bit, that I actually felt a bit nauseous. Odd reaction, I felt. But I will never forget that wonderful ride.
Life sometimes is like this gliding trip. We feel the wind start to pick up, we see the storm clouds building; we feel nervous or perhaps even outright terrified with some of life’s challenges. We feel ourselves being propelled rather rapidly into the unknown and fear what could happen. We see the familiar receding into smallness and storm clouds of life looming ever closer and larger and we begin to wonder if anything will ever be normal again. Will I be stuck up in the storm clouds forever? But then we remember that our friend, the pilot is with us. He is in control. He knows the situation. He’s been there before. He is experienced. And best of all, he is my friend. When we can remind ourselves of this, we begin to relax and to notice the beauty around us…even the strange beauty of the storm brewing! Then we hear it…the peaceful sound of the wind blowing gracefully over the fuselage of our life, like the caress of God. We feel this caress on us, as we allow our pilot Friend to glide us skilfully through the clouds, under them and in some cases above them; as we listen to His guidance and wisdom, pointing out interesting landmarks and explaining how things work. I’ll never forget that peacefulness up so high, skimming along the storm clouds. And when life’s storms threaten, I call this memory to mind and it helps me remember to relax and let the peace of God surround me and fill me, as Philippians 4:7 says in the New Living Translation, “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”