Rev. Janet Griffin Tribune News Service
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As the Rev. Janet Griffin points out, "Fear is infectious and so is courage."
“Put your hands in the air and yell ‘Whee!’ You’d pay $30 to take this ride at Disneyland!” The flight attendant said, as they tried to lessen our anxiety and make the turbulence fun!
One of the pilots talked from the cockpit about this being a temporary situation we would find a way around. We passengers tried to hang onto our belongings, our seats and our stomachs.
It didn’t help that the pilot forgot his intercom microphone was still on when he yelled at the flight control people, “Get us outta here!” “Get us outta here!” A prayer for our times? Maybe not?
I was seated in an exit row on the plane, so getting out was a simple matter of opening the door and stepping into the air at 30,000 feet. A possibility, but not a good idea. That way “outta here” meant certain disaster for me, and endangered all the other passengers.
Giving in to fear and anxiety, losing faith in the pilots and flight control people and the people who built the plane was another possibility, but also not a good one. My calmness could help my seatmate remain calm, and that could spread to those around me.
Fear is infectious and so is courage.
It wasn’t easy to endure several minutes of teeth-rattling, stomach-churning “rough air”, but eventually our flight’s wild ride smoothed out. Never getting on a plane again would spare me the risk of another wild ride, but is avoiding anxiety going to rule my life?
We live in anxious times. In my lifetime I have heard from my grandparents and my parents about the First World War, the Spanish influenza pandemic, the Great Depression, the Second World War. Then my own narrative picks up with being a school kid hiding under my desk during nuclear bomb attack drills in the Cold War; polio outbreaks (social distancing is not new); the Vietnam war, strife from systemic injustice, increasing numbers of catastrophic storms and fires, and on and on. Anxious times indeed!
People of faith in the power and presence of God might pray, in anxious times: “Get us IN” to the turbulence, not out.
With uncertainty comes possibility, and courage is only needed in fearful times. If people of faith are to fulfill our mission to transform the world into a place of God’s justice and love, then anxious times are our mission field. Once at a baptism, I preached that we were bringing this child into the community of the faithful “so she will go to hell”! Go to the places where God’s people are needed.
I prayed that she would put God’s agenda ahead of partisan politics or institutional religion, bringing God’s light, God’s peace, God’s love into places of anger, fear and injustice. I prayed that she would know the support of her faith community as she embraced life’s turbulence as an opportunity to make changes for the common good.
Whether we are reshaping our personal lives to more closely follow our faith’s teachings, or working to change cultural systems of injustice, there is no way to “reform” something without breaking the old form.
Change of any kind creates some turbulence.
God’s Spirit is always at work in these struggles, encouraging new life to emerge, new possibilities to become reality. God’s Spirit seeks people who have the courage, the heart, to move beyond the shutting down of anxiety into the spaciousness of hope.
The prayer attributed to St. Francis begins, “Lord, make us instruments of your peace.” And it goes on to name the places we might go to do that work.
“Where there is hatred; where there is injury; where there is discord; where there is despair.” Places of turbulence, and a prayer for getting IN there, not outta there!
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