It's never a good sign when the pilot walks into the galley to talk to the flight crew, and then begins bouncing his forehead against a cabinet. The man looked troubled.
Looking out the window from seat 10A on Delta Flight 233 from Amsterdam to Seattle, I saw a vast frozen world stretching to the horizon, almost blinding in the sunlight. Our Airbus 330 seemed to be feeling its age, with more noise and vibration, dips and dives than usual.
Watching the computerized flight-tracking map, at 36,000 feet we had passed Greenland, and were moving over the edge of northeast Canada. But why in the world had we made a 120-degree turn back to the southeast?
"This can't be right," I said to myself. "This isn't the way to Seattle."
The captain's voice suddenly boomed through the intercom, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is the captain speaking. We're going to have to divert our flight to Iqaluit, on Baffin Island. We have a flap on the starboard side of the aircraft that's stuck in the up position, and we need to correct the problem. We land in about one hour and I'll give you updates as we approach our destination."
We later learned that the stuck flap had made the plane slightly unstable, causing the aircraft to burn more fuel than anticipated. When we landed, not far from the Arctic Circle, we didn't have enough fuel to reach a major Canadian city.
So, we were landing at a former World War II air base on Baffin Island -- and there wasn't a thing I could do about it. I had no control over the events as they unfolded. Just that quickly, my plans, expectations and intentions had been swept aside.
But that's life, isn't it? Our plans don't always develop in the way we had hoped, do they? Sometimes, in spite of our most carefully calculated itinerary and flight plan, life loses altitude, taking dips and dives, making unscheduled stops in unexpected places. And we have little or no say in the outcome.
We landed in a minus-42 Arctic blast. Did I have confidence that our Delta pilot would utilize every bit of his skill and experience to get us safely on the ground? Yes, I did, yet I also knew there were multiple flight scenarios beyond his human control.
Fear of losing control is an anxiety that confronts all of us. I certainly faced it on Flight 233. Where did I find comfort and confidence? In Christ, because nothing -- absolutely nothing -- is beyond his control. And because my faith rested there, in spite of the entire out of control circumstances, I had peace.
Timothy Keller reminds us, "It's not the strength of your faith, but the object of your faith that saves you. Strong faith in a weak branch is fatally inferior to weak faith in a strong branch."
And when your faith rests on the strongest branch of all, you can find confidence and peace in whatever comes your way.
-- Rev. Micah Smith is president and founder of Global Gateway Network (www.globalgatewaynetwork.org) with offices in Richland. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.