Taking Flight During COVID-19

The clouds called to me like they did at age 7 when I pressed my face against the fingernail- shaped window of the aircraft carrying my family and I over the Swiss Alps to spend eighteen months on the east coast of Italy for my Dad’s new job. Air travel was like a bend in the universe, promising unknown worlds and spiritual metamorphosis—the very underpinnings of a life of purpose. The gilded wonder of white, weightless fluff is as wonderful now as it was then, even with a mask over my face.

“Woah,” my five-year-old daughter giggles, marveling at the ever-shrinking earth whizzing by. Her eyes sparkle above her homemade mask, framed by a wild bunch of blonde curls bounding down her forehead. I’m glad she’s next to me, tempering my grown-up anxieties with her childlike exuberance. Everything is an adventure to her, rather than a new opportunity for failure.

I used to be that way, relishing any chance to go somewhere I’d never been and try something new. But risks take an exacting toll when they are repeatedly met with pain. My capacity for adventure had grown rather small over the past few tumultuous years, until it barely held space in my heart at all.

The fiery thrill of “yes” had waned to a hissing coal, and I was much more comfortable saying “no” and staying put.

I wasn’t sure this trip to South Texas would be worth all the trouble. What pregnant woman with a severely sprained ankle travels during a global pandemic? Was it foolish to risk exposure to COVID-19? I already struggle with claustrophobia on planes, would I have too much trouble breathing with a mask over my nose and mouth for 5 hours straight? Would my daughter be afraid seeing so many people with masks on? Would all the walking and work of navigating airports and operating as a bridesmaid in my younger brother’s wedding, impede the rehabilitative progress I had been making on my ankle?

I couldn’t imagine missing my brother’s wedding, but these questions gave me serious pause.

The week before boarding our Southwest Airlines flight, I had visualized the whole experience from the reliability and comfort of my rocking chair. I pushed off the floor gently with my legs, leaning back into a vision of a peaceful beach and Jesus Christ whispering that he would create peace for me. I didn’t need to worry that my mind would fall apart on the plane. He would be there, dunking my face in cold water, like Fezzick reviving Inigo Montoya from his drunken stupor in The Princess Bride

“Okay,” I said, closing my eyes.

“What movie are we going to watch?” my daughter asks while popping a pretzel into her briefly exposed mouth. We had boarded the plane without a hitch and take-off had gone smoothly with no meltdowns. I sighed with gratitude, edging my way into believing this was going to be a great trip.

“Well, it’s one of my favorites from when I was about your age,” I reply, the sparkle now in my eyes. I turned on the iPad, queuing up 1995’s It Takes Two starring the Olson Twins, Steve Guttenberg, and Kirstie Alley. I untangled the headphones and cords and got our ears connected to our in-flight entertainment. The opening credits roll, and I slowly remember how it felt to care about nothing but the present moment. 

Hebrews 4:1-3 says “Now God has offered to us the same promise of entering into his realm of resting in confident faith…For we have heard the good news of deliverance just as they did, yet they didn’t join their faith with the word. Instead, what they heard didn’t affect them deeply, for they doubted. For those of us who believe, faith activates the promise and we experience the realm of confident rest.” (TPT)

Peace came only when I chose to dwell in the right now presence of God, choosing his faith-rest over my fear-turmoil. His peace was ready to cover me like a canopy of protection against the elements. With God, resting becomes a powerful act of faith.

The trip was work, but my daughter was a joy the whole time, and fear was nowhere to be found. I could not even conjure a panic-attack as the plane doors sealed shut, and we backed away for take-off. We all remained healthy, I walked down the aisle in my BREG ankle boot without tripping, and even managed to squeeze in a visit to one of my favorite coffee shops. The wealth of connections and memories I got to make with my immediate family was a beautiful gift during this tenuous time of uncertainty.

Even though taking the risk was scary, the adventure room of my heart reopened, and I began dreaming of future travel destinations, instead of trying to order my life in a such a way that I never leave the ground again. It almost felt like wisdom to remain in my anxiety, but God authored an alternative—taking flight on the wings of his peace.