i had a really fun adventure yesterday. i got to fly to san diego for the day with one of my dear friends, the lovely & brave sharla jackson. it wasn’t just an ordinary trip. it was actually 10 years–yes, 10 years–in the making. you see, sharla has been terrified of flying (i have known her for 10 years but it’s been 16 years since her last flight!). she doesn’t have the “oh, it freaks me out a little bit” fear of flying. she has the extremely-nauseous-and-anxious-just-thinking-about-it, even i-don’t-want-to-drive-near-the-airport-unless-absolutely-necessary thoughts. sharla first shared her fear when she was in a beth moore breaking free bible study i facilitated about 10 years ago. her fear kept her from life. she’d miss family vacations, adventures, all kinds of things that she longed to be part of but just couldn’t push through her fear to get there. i told her then, a decade ago, “when you are ready to try to face this fear, i’ll do it with you.”
so for all these years we talk about it now and then. she just hasn’t been ready. but in this past season she’s gone though some painful losses & has begun to face some other deep fears that have absolutely nothing to do with flying. she’s started to live more, experience more, press out of the box more. so about 6 months ago she said “i think i’m ready to try…this will be the biggest fear i’ve ever faced on my own”. because jose’s a pilot i have the luxury of weird things like flying somewhere for one day so we set a date, got some serious prayer coverage and a prescription for valium, and went for it.
we just took it one step at a time. all of the united airlines people were so helpful and great cheerleaders, too. we took pictures. we practiced breathing. i held her hand. she asked me to tell her what each of the sounds probably was, to relieve her anxiety and remind her what was normal. and two hours later we landed in san diego and both breathed a big sigh of relief. after 20 years of never seeing the ocean, she was able to feel the sand between her toes and hear the splash of waves again.
a few hours later we headed back to the airport for round 2. she was so much different the second time, so much free-er. the anxiety wasn’t gone but it definitely had dissipated. but of course it is never as easy as we want it to be and as we got closer to denver, the turbulence kicked in. lots and lots of bumps, the dips that make your stomach tip and your hands clench the armrests. and guess what? she did it. i actually think that was icing on the cake for her, making it an even bigger victory.
this day she and i had talked about for 10 years finally arrived. when our fears are robbing us of life, they are worth facing. and usually facing one of them helps us face some others, too. the ripples are always good. thanks, sharla, for showing what it means to be brave. portland, here you come!