What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Prior to our recent trip to New York, the boys were full of excitement about the thought of flying in an airplane.  For a full two months before our visit, Luke kept asking to go to the airport.  “In June you can, Buddy,” I’d tell him.

And when the great day dawned, it seemed to meet their expectations.  Matthew was enthralled by the view outside the window as we took off.  He exclaimed with delight as the plane became airborne,  gave a joyous “Whoah!”  as it turned, and pressed his nose against the glass to look at the city below us, houses and cars and roads becoming smaller by the second.  “Look, Mommy!” he exclaimed.  “We’re taller than everyone else, except the other people on the plane.”

“Mm-hm,” I responded, pausing in my Hail Marys, my eyes closed and my head pressed firmly back against the seat.

I am not a fan of flying.

I’m okay once I’m in the air, but going up and coming down are a different story.  I hate the turbulence as the plane climbs, and I hate it when the plane turns and the earth is suddenly parallel to my ear, and I hate looking out the window and being able to identify distinct bolts on the airplane wing, because somehow that leads me to imagine them loosening and dropping off, ominously, one at a time.  My response to this fear has always been to grab Scott’s hand, but with two boys sitting on either side of me, he is less accessible these days than he used to be.  So now when the plane takes off or lands, I close my eyes and say Hail Marys over and over.   (It helps, even though “Now and at the hour of our death” always seems a little bit like tempting fate.)

But as we took off on the second flight of the trip back home, I looked over at Matthew as he pressed his face to the glass and exclaimed over the tiny people below. He was loving it, that swoopy feeling of the plane shifting direction, the novel feeling of being up in the air like a bird.  There was no room in him for fear; it literally didn’t occur to him to imagine the worst-case scenarios.  And I realized that I wish I were that way.  I guess it’s the price of eating the fruit of knowledge, and maturity: I’ve been around long enough to read news stories of plane crashes and airline tragedies.  He hasn’t.   He’s in that age where it’s nothing but adventure, and excitement.  He trusts, completely,  that the air will hold him.

He’s got the advantage over me, in other words.

There’s an old saying, sort of a challenge, that I’ve heard often: What would you do with your life if you weren’t afraid?  And there are so many different ways to answer that, far more than I could write about here.

But I do know one thing I’d do if I weren’t afraid.  I’d stop closing my eyes during takeoff and I’d be more like Matthew, face up against the small airplane window, marveling at the ribbons of road and the checkerboard fields and the hills receding below me.  I’d savor the angel’s’-eye view and the swift climb  into the clouds, the extraordinary feeling of leaving ordinary life behind.

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