Out of my rather aimless thinking recently, an important idea moved to the front of my mind. Recently, I was on a flight. That is not unusual. I am not one of those business folks who seemingly fly all the time. But I do a fair number of flights in a year’s time. So there was nothing unusual about this one.
I began to think about the process of having moved on board the flight. There are the usual instructions to fasten seat belt, what to do with the life preserver in the event that you go down in water, etc. I wondered if I could remember any of this in the event of the real danger. I fear my assumption that I have heard it all before and know it all would be severely tested! I need to pay more attention.
It began to dawn on me, as I thought about the process of flying, how much trust is demanded of the passenger. Again if we were to think about it, we would realize how true that is. And yet, like me during the flight instructions, we pay little attention to one of our central assumptions, namely, how trusting we really are.
As I sat in my seat, readying to take off, it occurred to me that I was trusting the two pilots up front. I laughed. In fact, I actually was trusting that there were two pilots! I walked on to the plane and never even looked into the cockpit. So I trusted there were two and that they knew what they were doing. That suggested to me that I also trusted the particular airlines I had chosen for the day. Somehow they must have verified that the two pilots were capable of protecting my life.
I realized I also was trusting the engines on this plane. I laughed again. I did not even know how many engines the plane had! I assumed there were at least two engines. I know little planes can fly with one engine, but this was not a little plane! Maybe there were four engines. And if one or more engines failed, how many engines does it take to make it down safely? I trusted someone knew for certain!
Then it occurred to me I had no clue who made those engines. A bunch of people somewhere---maybe even abroad--- crafted some metal in such a way that it would lift me and a bunch of others high into the sky and take us to another place of our choosing. I could not have thanked those manufacturers, even if it had occurred to me to thank them. I was trusting a bunch of unknown people! I was not particularly nervous. But I was very aware of the huge role trust was playing in my life---even if I were not thinking about it.
As a spiritual person, that made it obvious and easy for me to move from trust to faith. For me, those two are synonyms. When I say that I have faith in God---or the Holy One---I am affirming nothing more than I trust God. Saying the word, faith, may somehow make it seem more special, but it is not. Faith is trust.
Having faith in God may seem trickier than faith in pilots and engine makers because I can’t see the physical aspect of God, like I can actually look into the cockpit and see the men or women flying the plane. I can observe God the way I can look at a plane as I approach it and count the engines. I know some people would use creation itself as God’s handiwork and, therefore, conclude there has to be a Creator.
I am fine with the idea of God as Creator. I can look at a tree and conclude I know the Creator of the tree. It is simply not the same idea as looking into the cockpit to see two folks sitting there. The invisibility of God can make faith more challenging. Faith is not obvious. And I am ok with that. I am content to put my life into the hands of the “Pilot of life.” And frankly, it never dawned on me to use that metaphor for God. As with most metaphors, it is suggestive, but should not be taken in any kind of literal sense.
It is a weak metaphor in the sense that God as Pilot of my life is not going to deliver me to a specific place like a plane will literally take me to the airport of my choice. Rather the destination of my life is more general---something like blessed or fulfilled. I assume there are many ways to get there and I trust my Pilot to help me in my travel. On my own I don’t know that I can get there. I trust that God has some graceful ways of facilitating the process through my life’s tricky places.
It is a strong metaphor in the sense that I put my life in the hands of God just as surely as I put my hands in the life of the two people who take me 170 miles an hour down a runway and, then, 35,000 feet into the sky to deliver me at some distant point. I understand the idea of putting my life in someone’s hands. That takes trust and faith.
I laugh for the final time. Even though I know all this, it does not take away the necessity of trust and faith. Even though I know all of this, the next time I walk on to a plane I still have to trust the pilots. And even though I know all of this, tomorrow I have to trust the Creator and Sustainer of life to take me further into the blessed potentiality awaiting me.