Flying, Death and Confession

There is an old Scottish expression that says, “Confession is good for the soul.” Taking this to heart, here goes…

I do not like to fly.

This confession may be prompted by the fact that in the next 72 hours I will be boarding 2 different planes, flying for over 14 hours, traveling nearly 6900 miles (most of which is over open ocean, btw).

However, my dislike of air travel is not paralyzing. I still fly. Last year I flew to almost 8000 miles to Delhi, India. I just fly apprehensively.

I think I can honestly say its not death that causes my dislike of flying. Its the getting dead part that unnerves me.

Its my lack of control if something on the plane should break. I have no ability to stop it from crashing. Its the few moments of chaotic decent from the skies back to Earth that worry me. Its the realization that if something does go wrong, a mechanical malfunction, human error or a malevolent plot, I will be confronted for a few split seconds that my time has come. It may only take a few moments for a plane to fall out of the sky, but those seconds are a long introduction to Death.

Part of my pre flight ritual is to watch the news looking for stories of plane crashes (yes this is dreadful to me too). The thinking is not that I wish calamity to happen to someone else, but it is the reassurance that if some other plane has problems or issues with a pilot (Asian Air flight 214) it will cause all the other airlines to inspect their planes and to review their operations procedures. It becomes a call to refocus on safety for everyone, thus making my flight that much safer.

But the truth is that as I sit writing these words I feel the tension of confession. I feel uneasy about giving voice to what I think because it reveals who I am. As I sit writing this I am thinking of leaving this post as an unseen draft, in essence hiding my confession. Maybe even deleting it. I am apprehensive about sharing this part of me, not knowing what the reaction to this part of me will produce.

I wonder what are people going to think about me after reading this? Are they going to laugh at me? Think I am strange? Are they going to think I am a big chicken? I don’t know what people are going to think and that is the risk of confession. That’s the vulnerability called for in confession. That’s the cost of showing people who we really are.

Scripture calls us to, “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other….” in James 5:16. This is so we can be “healed.” Healed of fear, sin and loneliness. Confession to others invites us into deeper community with other people. It moves us from talking about third best things (the weather, sports and camping) to at least talking about second best things (faith, spirituality and church) and possibly even to first best things (the character of God, his breath in our lungs and movement of his Spirit).*

When we confess it should not be to people who are going to confirm what we already know. Who are doing to tell us that we are crazy or that confession is not needed. We should not confess to the kind of people who will take our fragile selves and smash us on the ground of humor and humiliation. People we should confess to are those who will point us to Christ’s perfect absolution and pardon. Confession apart from Christ’s forgiveness is just another attempt to make ourselves feel better about who we are or what we have done.  It is a kind of self help therapy or experience that depends on us and not the finished work of Christ.

Our confession should find their end in Jesus and inspire others to confession as well.

* I think this idea comes from Richard Rohr.

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