Updated: Feb 20, 2019
Chris draws some parallels between spiritual growth and his (negative) encounters with turbulence.
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:37-40)
I hate turbulence. Ever so often, a sinking feeling of dread and ambivalence surrounds me whenever I see the seatbelt sign light up and I hear the pilot’s steady voice explaining the current plight of the aircraft. Everyone quickly scrambles to take his or her seats and there’s an unmistakable tension in the air. During such moments, I seem to go through a ritual: I buckle up my seatbelts, compose myself mentally and psychologically, furiously grab my seat and brace myself for an unpredictable roller-coaster ride. And as the contents of my stomach tussle to make a second appearance on the seat in front of me, I pray as hard as I can. Turbulence is something far beyond my control. And that very lack of control scares the daylights out of me; it generates greater fear and insecurity on my part. Yet every flight that I have taken seemed to have some kind of turbulence, every journey that I have embarked upon seemed to have some form of challenging and potentially destructive force, threatening to push me off course, away from my destination and further from my endpoint.
Pictured in this photo was my flight home from New York, John F. Kennedy airport after spending almost a year away from home. At the onset, the entire journey home seemed to be filled with obstacles. For one, the flight was severely delayed because of bad weather. Eventually SQ25 took off way behind schedule from foggy New York and we arrived in Frankfurt a lot later than expected. Even at the Frankfurt airport, my flight was delayed yet again due to technical difficulties. And if all of these little stumbling blocks were not bad enough, the flight home was very badly affected by turbulence. The last hour of the flight reminded me of a never-ending roller coaster and the frequent and sudden drops made me very nauseous. (Personally, I found it hard to imagine that the A380 – such an enormous aircraft – could also experience such immense turbulence.) The only things that came to my mind during those moments were my family, loved ones and friends. I just wanted to reach home so badly.
In a way, aren’t the lives that we lead nowadays similar to the analogy of my flight home? Aren’t we all travelling to a particular destination – be it in our studies, our jobs and our vocations? Don’t we all have an end point in mind, a place that we want to eventually reach, and an ideal state that we want to be at? However, these very journeys of self-growth, pilgrimages of self-actualization and personal enrichment, are seldom smooth sailing nor are they ever easy. Akin to turbulence, obstacles and difficulties seem to abound in our personal expeditions, challenges that threaten to throw us off course in our lives.
Moreover, it is precisely in such moments of turmoil that we realize just how weak and vulnerable we actually are, that we are not in full control of our lives. Strong external elements such as turbulence, an unexpected change in our working environment, a sudden loss of a loved one etc. all renders us helpless and defenseless. Why did I not see that coming? Gosh, why wasn’t I prepared for this? How could I have ever prepared myself for this? We gradually realize that all of our life experiences, grades and achievements inadvertently fall short to provide us with what we need to deal (let alone combat) with such external forces.
The fact of the matter is that we can never and will never be in absolute control of our lives. The sooner we realize this and that our lives are not completely ours but God’s and that our lives are merely an instrument of His will and not ours, a life for the service of others rather than ourselves, we gradually realize that the only absolute, the only certainty that we have in this messy equation of life is that God is in control. Why then should we worry and be thrown off course by external forces when our God is the strongest force of all? We need to trust that He is taking care of things. We need to have the faith that He is taking charge.
My turbulent flight eventually brought me safely home. And that was all that mattered. While it was undeniably a long and arduous journey from New York to Singapore, all of it paled in comparison when I saw my Mum and Dad waiting to receive me at the arrival hall. Words simply cannot describe that amazing moment. Let us then be still and quell our inner tempest and turmoil of our souls, having the faith to realize that God is with us – whether it was on a boat with the disciples or in a majestic A380, He is there, all the time, every time guiding us onwards to our journey, our journey towards home.
© 2017 Christ Centered Convo/Christopher Chok