Have you ever been in a situation that you TRULY believed that there was a good chance that you were going to die? An accident or a diagnosis that caused you to really have to consider the fact that you might not only die, but die soon. I recently had such an experience and I have been paying attention to the what it has left in my mind, body and spirit.
We were on a trip over spring break and were flying into the bad storms that they were having on the east coast to land at the airport in Newark. The flight crew had warned us far in advance about the situation and told us to expect some turbulence. The flight was bumpy for much of the flight, but as we as we neared Newark it got really BAD. Someone came on the PA and told us that it was going to be a pretty rough ride but that they would have us on the ground soon. Then there was complete silence from the cockpit for the next 45 MINUTES (not SOON in my book) while the plane creaked and groaned and bucked and swayed. I REALLY thought that there was a possibility that I was going to die.
I’m going to say this again, I REALLY thought that I was staring death in the face. I know I’m being repetitive, but that part is very important, because I want to share my reaction to that thought and especially how I prayed during that time, or probably more accurately how I didn’t pray. Because, it helped me to become aware of something that I hadn’t realized before and it surprised me.
I never once prayed that I wouldn’t die or that we wouldn’t crash. Not once. And my kids were on the plane. You would think that I would have at least prayed that my kids wouldn’t die. The closest that I came was to say, “God, I really don’t want my kids to die.” Actually, the only way that I prayed was just to keep my heart open to whatever would be. To accept my death if it was to come. To accept the death of my husband and my kids if that was to come as well and to not give in to fear.
I did not get on that plane with some idea about how I would pray or react if I was faced with death. We all will always wonder how we will behave when that moment actually comes. I don’t possess some theology or dogma about not praying for my own safety. I know that some people don’t believe in asking for anything for themselves. That’s not me. I want and NEED God’s help and ask for whatever God is willing to give me.
Here’s what I now understand about why I didn’t pray to be saved. Because it would have been asking for myself to be excused from all of the suffering in the world. It would have been saying that it’s alright for God to let someone else die in a plane crash, die in an avalanche, have their whole family killed in an earthquake in Haiti, be kicked out on the street with no where to live, or live in constant fear of war, famine or starvation with no real way to protect your children, but I should be spared for some reason. In that moment, I was standing in solidarity with the people all over the world who were deeply suffering and who wouldn’t be spared.
While I didn’t feel that I should pray to be spared my own suffering, I do pray for all of those who suffer in the world and that God will use me as an instrument to help relieve their suffering. Not avoiding my own pain and fear is one of the ways that I pray.
When we have wept many tears and they flow like rivers
from our sad eyes
does the deep hidden sigh of
become our own.