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Ruminations from a Metal Tube at 30,000 Feet

An airplane is such a sterile but dirty environment. It’s sterile in an aesthetic sense, plastic and vinyl and white luggage racks, like a line of drawers in a morgue, or bunks on a Navy battleship. It’s dirty because everyone is breathing the same air in a closed environment, and thousands of hands that have been who-knows-where have touched everything.

On an airplane one has absolutely no control over one’s life. It is a total act of faith to get on a plane, especially these days. We use our reason to determine that most planes make it to their destination; we subconsciously calculate the risk of malfunction or fire or the captain suddenly becoming a paranoid schizophrenic. We mentally and often subconsciously calculate these risks, then make a leap. Any action is a leap; it’s just that some see more risk than others, and some folks lack the faith necessary to leap.

But we must leap, even to get out of bed. We have no idea what the day may bring. Will it be another routine day, with a shower, breakfast, the paper, a kiss for the wife and kids, Starbucks on the way to work, lunch, work, the drive home in traffic with the monotony on the radio, dinner, a movie, and sleep?

Or we can be met by natural disaster, a tornado or earthquake that wipes out our possessions, or even our family.  The phone rings. An accident, or a stroke, or heart attack. That kiss to the wife was her last – or ours.

We try to console ourselves with routine, with keeping our heads down, by thinking like an ox treading out grain, round and round the circle of days, trying to believe that nothing  is changing, that life is linear, living with no aerial view, no overarching vision. But to be in time means to change. The body ages daily. The muscles weaken. The reflexes get slower; the mental faculties diminish. Time-bound experience isn’t linear; it’s often jagged, soul-piercing at times.

From a solely human perspective, there is no such thing as hope. Death is the great equalizer. It brings down king and peasant, celebrity and nobody.

So it makes sense to start with the inescapable Fact of Death and work backwards. What do I want my life to have meant? What will be the sum total written on my tombstone? What do I want the Lord Jesus Christ to say when I stand before him? This is the aerial view, seeing the end from the beginning. It is Sanity.

We can hide from this Fact through hedonism, materialism, technology, and routine; we can be cowards and pretend everything is linear. This is what many of us do. I have often done it at times. But it burns up our most precious resource: time. Living for mere pleasure or possessions gains us nothing and ultimately costs us everything, like playing video games for eight hours a day, eight days a week.

I want to live my life in light of the Facts, especially that of standing before Christ to account for my life.

Jesus said the only way we could bear much fruit is to abide in him. I want to abide, every day, and bear much fruit. Too long have I hidden in the shadows, like Theoden, living in fear and self-delusion, not taking up the mantle of my kingship – the rule of Christ, through me, as if it were me living, in my domain, my circle of influence.

Theoden had a mighty destiny, but the false counsels of Wormtongue stole many years from him. I have felt many years stolen from me by my own Wormtongue, the satanic counsel that comes into my own mind – fears, feelings of inadequacy, the desire to hide away at home and simply enjoy the blessings given through my work. But, like Theoden, right now is always the time to choose what is right.

It would have been easier for Frodo, and Sam, and Merry and Pippin, to stay in the Shire and hide their heads in their hobbit-holes, to pretend that the world wasn’t being covered by darkness. But they were caught up in a story that wasn’t merely about their little hobbit-lives; it was about the life of an entire world, and each of them had a vital part to play in it.

Many of us have our little hobbit-holes, those places of contentment and comfort, ease, where the steady supplies of garden vegetables, good ales and Longbottom Leaf keep us mired in the illusion of permanence. But we can’t stay there, not as a hiding place, if we want a life that resounds with the Eternal. While the Great War is on, Hobbiton can be a place of respite from my journeys, but I have a mission, a purpose, and the forces at work in this world are not going to sit back and wait for me to fulfill my calling. It will all pass me by, and someone else will be used in my place unless I step out in faith. Blessed is he whose trust is in the Lord.

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