Waiting in a Holding Pattern

If anyone ever says walking by faith is easy, they might have never actually done it. What is faith? It is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. It’s moving in action towards something we’re sure about, but can’t see.

Let’s say you know that God is calling you out of your comfort zone to a new land, territory, job, opportunity, relationship, or project. It’s something bigger than you would have ever asked for. It’s so big that it scares you, but in an exciting way. After contemplating, seeking advice, praying, waiting, and researching, you finally decide to move forward. Off you go… leaving behind the familiar, and heading towards the unfamiliar, but trusting that God is the One leading you.

So, what happens when you decide to take that journey of faith and there’s a stand still? Something beyond your control is causing this ride to not go according to your plans. That’s what happened on my flight to Japan a few years ago (pictured). In August 2011, I was on a trip to Japan to assist with the tsunami relief. What should have taken us about 15 hours total to get to our city (12 hour flight + 3 hour train ride), took us 20 hours, and there was nothing we could do about it. The first 11 hours of the flight was smooth overall. There were a few bumps, but nothing major or abnormal. Then about an hour before we land, (literally the 11th hour) the pilot comes on the speaker, tells everyone to take their seats, and announces that there is a storm in Narita. The pilot announces that before we attempt to land, we will need to circle for a while, and dump as much fuel as possible to reduce the weight of the aircraft. In my years of flying, I had never heard such an announcement, and you can hear the whispers in the cabin as the passengers knew what dumping the fuel might mean as it relates to the landing. This was my first major flight after overcoming my fear of flying and death, and I was unusually calm. I remember thinking “God’s got me. God’s got us. I know He didn’t bring us this far (to the edge of Japan), just to crash now.”

This was NOT how we planned the journey. This was supposed to be a straight-forward flight from Los Angeles to Narita, Japan. We were on a time schedule, and needed to catch our connecting bullet train to our final destination. We had things to do!

In all this, I had to depend on the pilot. I had to believe that he knew what he was doing. I had to trust that his goal was to get us to our endpoint as safely as possible. I had to trust that he wanted the best for his passengers. When circumstances beyond our power cause a delay, we don’t really have a choice but to be still, sit tight, and wait it out. Now, imagine if I believed I could have taken things into my own hands. What if I said “I’m tired of waiting”? Then I unbuckled my seat belt, walked up to the cockpit, and demanded to speak with the pilot… you know, just to give my suggestions or assessment of the situation. What would have happened if I did that? Seriously, think about it.

It’s a lot easier to relinquish control in an airplane, but so much harder to give up control to God in everyday life. As passengers in the cabin, we had a very limited view. We couldn’t actually see the storm, and from all appearances, there was no reason why we shouldn’t have continued on the straight path.

Things were not lining up with our timing and schedule, but praise God we did land! After circling a few times, the pilot came back on and announced that although we dumped a lot of fuel, the storm had not moved on, so we needed to reroute to another airport. Because we landed so much later than planned, we missed our connecting train, and had to take an 8 hour bus ride instead. My team members and I were exhausted, and sometimes frustrated, but grateful to finally make it to our destination. I had an even greater appreciation for the journey after we arrived; an appreciation I might not have had if it was a smooth trip.

So when we embark on our faith journey, and the ride goes from smooth and straight-forward to going in circles in a holding pattern, let’s remember to trust the pilot of our lives (God). There might be harmful storms or obstacles ahead. We might need to dump fuel/baggage before arriving. We simply don’t know! Remember that we’re not the copilot; we are passengers with limited perspectives. Let’s trust that the pilot sees the bigger picture, and will get us to our destination safely and at the best time.

Is this easy? Absolutely not! Can it be frustrating? It sure can! And that’s where faith comes in…

*Note: this is talking about circumstances beyond our control keeping us in a holding pattern. This is NOT talking about decisions we’ve made, and actions we’ve committed, that set us back or prolong our journey. That will be a different story.*

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