Reflections at 30,000 Feet

At this very moment, I am cruising gently through the clear night air, 30,000 feet above the earth.

Actually, that’s an overly peaceful way to put it. More accurately, I’m blasting through the skies at 600 miles per hour in a pressurized metal tube full of grouchy people and crying babies who are crammed together with no space to breathe or move or scratch their noses. Typing this post with my laptop propped up on the seatback tray table is one of the most difficult balancing acts I have ever accomplished. The words that you are reading are a labor of love, people. Emphasis on the labor.

Anyone who has travelled by airplane knows the many tribulations that come with that ordeal. Unless you’re willing to sell your liver to purchase first-class tickets, you have no choice but to subject yourself to the joys of cramming yourself in with a couple hundred of your best friends for hours on end. Of course, all of this makes flying sound pretty terrible. But despite the difficulties that come along with it, I actually love travelling by airplane. It can be messy and chaotic at times, and there’s no denying that it can be pretty cramped. But all of this is totally worth it when you look out the window and find the endless expanse of the earth stretched out far below you like an artist’s canvas. If you’re willing to endure the side-effects of this adventure, flying can be an amazing sensation that speaks to the deep-rooted human dream to soar like an eagle through the heavens.

Plus, they give you free pretzels!

I personally find that travelling by air inspires me to reflect on my life in a deeper way. Gazing down on the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life is for me a recipe for philosophical musings. My world lies stretched out beneath me, thrumming with life and beauty and chaos and the hopes and dreams of billions of people like me; and here I hang, suspended in empty air, cut off from the flow of daily experience. It is as if I have been removed from time itself and set outside of its constant, irresistible flow; the world rushes on beneath while I remain frozen in a single, undying moment.

Today, this thought-provoking journey is taking me home from Chicago, where I have spent the past week looking at colleges. The nature of this trip forced me to reflect on my future in very tangible ways; and as I now return home to my everyday life, I find myself viewing my day-to-day reality from a perspective that is broadened by both time and distance. As I have explored college campuses and caught a glimpse of college life, I have been forced to seriously consider my present experiences in the light of my future. As I make decisions about my life in college and beyond, I must step out of the prison of the here-and-now and see the big picture of my life. This broadening of perspective in regards to time is now compounded by my distance from my regular life. As I soar high above the earth, I find that my daily concerns begin to look small as I view them from such a great distance. Gazing down on millions of people going about their usual business, I cannot help but see my life from a different angle; I am but one small life in a world of so many. I have yet to fully discover my place in the mosaic of humanity; as I search for my calling, I am reminded that I am so very small, yet so very loved by the King and Creator of it all.

I have found that that the key to seeing my life from the proper perspective is to first understand who God is, and then understand who I am. Though I will never fully understand either of those things, I find that I can see them much more clearly in this moment of unique separation and reflection. God is the Creator and Sustainer of all creation, and He alone is truly set apart from this world. He stands outside of time and dwells beyond the realm of our existence. He is infinitely higher and greater than anything we can imagine. The earth seems like naught but a mote of dust to him, and the billions of people who dwell upon it should be entirely inconsequential. Yet despite His magnificent transcendence, He remains present in creation. He paints the wings of each butterfly and commands the sun to rise every morning. He is intimately involved in the life of every person on this planet, and He loves each one the same with a love that cannot be fathomed. God is Creator, King, Lord, and Father. He is Redeemer and Healer and Judge and Lover. God is so far beyond us, yet ever beside us. That is who God is, and more.

As for me, I am small. I am weak. I am a sinner and a coward, a rebel and a traitor. I am only one of billions on this rock we call Earth, and my life is but a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Yet I am made in the image of God, blessed with elements of His divine character, tasked with displaying His glory before all. I am the fingerprint of the Creator, created in Him to do good. I am the broken sinner that has been redeemed and restored; the prodigal who has been welcomed home. I was fatherless, a wanderer, a sojourner without a home; now I am adopted and brought into the household of God. I am fallible and fallen, but I am loved by the Powerful and Perfect. God does not need me, but I need Him, and He loves me despite my rejection of Him. I am a Child of God. That is who I am; and that is who you are, too.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the little things and forget to see the big picture. I get it. We all live busy lives. From the squawking of the alarm clock each morning until our heads finally hit the pillow every night, we fill our days to the brim with constant activity. After a time, it can feel that life runs in endless circles with no real direction. It’s easy to get lost in the quiet chaos of our daily routines. But it’s absolutely vital that we take the time to step back and reassess from time to time. We all need to stop and reflect on who God is, on who we are, and on what that means for daily life. One need not be on an airplane to take a mental breather from the rat-race and examine the bigger picture of life.

Today, I urge you to take the time to consider your life from a broader perspective. Why do you do what you do? Why do you fill your schedule with the activities that you spend your time on? What purposes are you pursuing every day? Don’t fall into the trap of simply coasting through life without intentionality or meaning. As Socrates wisely pointed out, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” There is no point to an existence that lacks direction or deeper meaning. We were created for so much more. God pieced you together for a reason. You are the only you that ever was, and ever will be. You are so much more than just a number or a face in the crowd. Yes, you’re one on a planet of billions; we all are. There is no reason that we ought to matter much. But we do, because God has given us value and purpose. Never doubt that you are eternally valuable; indeed, you are priceless in the eyes of God.

My flight will be landing in a couple of hours. Soon, I will jump right back in to the craziness of my normal life. But I pray that I will approach it differently because of my reflections this week; and I pray that you, too, will not be afraid to press pause on your daily routine just long enough to consider the big picture of your life. This life is a crazy, wild, messy adventure. It can be tough. It can be uncomfortable, like a ride on an airplane; but rather like a flight on a plane, if you’re willing to open the window and look out, you just may find that the turbulence you’re facing now is nothing compared to the beauty beyond. You only have to be willing to look for it.

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