We’ve seen so many missteps in the airlines lately: skin ripped off a Southwest airplane; small regional plane clipped by a huge French jet; controllers literally asleep at the switch again, again, again, again and again– at least five times in recent days. Are we terrorized? Or instead, ready to pray effectively? I asked my friend Sarah from Raleigh whose scary flight experience brought prayer to bear with perfect safety as the result. Sarah is a student of Christian Science.
Cynthia: Sarah, please give us the background to your story.
Sarah: I used to travel extensively for work. One memorable flight was from the West Coast to the East Coast with a change of planes in Chicago. The plane descended, but instead of landing, the plane ascended sharply and the pilot explained there were mechanical problems that needed to be examined. He was calm but honest. He said we’d be flying out over Lake Michigan to dump fuel, test the equipment and allow the airport to prepare for an emergency landing.
Cynthia: How did the passengers react?
Sarah: At first there was consternation among passengers with many calling home to talk to loved ones. After 45 minutes of flying in circles, the pilot came back on the loudspeaker to explain that it appeared there were several mechanical problems that would require the plane land at a greater than normal speed. One of the main concerns was that we’d run out of runway. The first thought that came to me was pretty bad – “where can I hide personal identification so they can identify my body?” At first the fear was so overwhelming that I couldn’t seem to grasp any thought that was comforting.
Cynthia: So what did you do then?
Sarah: Prior to this, the Lord’s Prayer had never been a “go-to” prayer for me. But that’s the one that finally broke through the fear. Especially a part of Mary Baker Eddy’s spiritual interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer, “Enable us to know,–as in heaven, so on earth,– God is omnipotent, Supreme.” I felt we were all in God’s arms.
Cynthia: You’re referring to her response to “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 17)
Sarah: Yes, that’s it. The passengers became very quiet and it seemed that everyone was praying in their own way. Crew members took time to instruct passengers in how to take the “crash position” on their command and then they all took up positions near the emergency exits. We landed without incident and came to a stop just a few feet from the end of the runway. When the plane came to a halt, everyone cheered loudly.
Even after all the drama, I had a connecting flight to make and arrived home safely later that same night. When I think back on this experience I don’t have memories of the initial fear and terror but of the triumph over fear, the peace and quiet of people in heartfelt prayer and the cheers upon safely landing.
Cynthia: Sarah, thanks so much for sharing this. It should help all of us when, like George Clooney, we’re “Up in the Air.”
Photo by darkmatter/David