I’ve flown a lot in my life. I think I was a week old when I rode in a plane for the first time. A little Cessna. My parents and sister and I had to fly to another town to get our groceries when we lived in the highlands of PNG. In high school, I flew home to PNG from Australia at every term break, totaling sixteen flights a year for four years.
I know that some people are terribly scared of flying. I was never terribly scared, but I will not say that I never worried. When I did worry, I would close my eyes and picture the hand of God, holding our plane and guiding it to its destination.
Jeremy and I were shepherding the second grade class this morning and the lesson they were being taught was about the Holy Spirit. And paper airplanes.
After this past week, I figured I needed this as much as they did. A neighbor in his last days, a former co-worker (can you call them that when it was student teaching??) with potentially bad news about his cancer, and family friends dying in a plane crash and leaving behind three daughters who are just entering adulthood. As well as the more trivial, yet ever present, worries about kids and money and daily ‘stuff’.
I was not at all surprised when the second graders replied that they did not know what the Holy Spirit was. But I was pleasantly amazed at the beauty of this lesson.
The children were lined up and given a piece of paper and told to throw it. What a disappointment, the papers all fluttered to the floor. This symbolized us trying to go about our lives without paying attention to the directions we are given through Christ. Then they were told to fold the paper once, and again, and one last time, never more instruction than just to fold it. Each time they added a fold, they got to throw it and see what happened. Each time a disappointment. Just because the Holy Spirit is with us does not mean that we get to stand by and do nothing and still expect everything.
The kids were then given step by step instructions to make their own ‘Holy Spirit Flyer’. They were thrilled to see the planes take shape and then could hardly wait to fly them.
Isn’t that something like parenting? We are amazed as we watch our children grow into their own person and then at some point, we let them ‘fly’ off on their own.
Now the kids lined up and took turns throwing their planes. And as seven year old boys will do, the jokes about crashing began. The connection sunk in immediately and I wanted to shut my eyes, to block out their words, to stop imagining that dear sweet couple and their last moments as their plane’s engine blew up, sending them plummeting to the earth with one final explosion. But then I caught myself and began to piece it together. Was not the same Holy Spirit with them in their final moments? God’s hand was still with them, it just continued to carry them away, up to Heaven as their plane dropped away. They were good, kind, generous people who raised kind and loving daughters.
While my heart aches for all the suffering of those around me, I have found a bit more peace today, knowing that that very same hand of God that I pictured so long ago is with us all as we fly, whether literally or metaphorically. I just pray that I can live as he taught, follow his instructions, and help to bring some of that peace to other people’s lives.