I used to pride myself on always being able to sleep during air travel. I would tell people I am usually asleep before my flight even takes off. I must have shared that little factoid one too many times. We all know what the result of pride is; even when it seems subtle, the fall is coming.
Recently on a late-night flight from Dallas to LA and facing an arrival time of 2:49 AM (for my “body’s timezone”), my boastful statements were not proving true. It was not for lack of trying. I had a rain app blaring in my ears, my feet were resting comfortably on my carry-on, and even put on a sleep mask much to my husband’s amusement.
In the darkened cabin, hiding behind my mask, sleep continued to elude me. I comforted myself with the memory of what we tell our children at nap time. Just lie down, close your eyes, and rest; it’s good for you. Perhaps having my eyes closed and a sleep mask on was almost as much benefit to my body as being asleep? If it wasn’t for the sad reality that I was on a plane, I could Google this and know for sure!
Instead, I had to be content with resting and hope that, eventually, I would have to succumb to sleep. At some point in my ongoing “rest period,” I happened to peer out from under my eye mask and noticed a guy standing by the restroom. Assuming he was waiting for someone to exit, I resumed my closed-eye, praying-for-sleep posture. I am not sure how much time expired until frustration and boredom prompted me to slip my eye mask up once again. Surprisingly the same man was still standing near me, same place, same position.
At this point, I realized, at least for me, sleep was not going to be a part of this American Airline flight. I quickly pulled my glasses from my purse so I could better see said man and try to decipher why he was standing there. My current goal has now changed from pursuing sleep to determining if this a “good guy” or a “bad guy?”
He was dressed in business casual attire. Nothing to see there. He periodically looked at his phone, but I could not determine what he was doing, no helpful info there either. He did not make eye contact with me despite the fact that I undoubtedly did not hide my interest in him very well. He could be a bad guy so intent on his mission that he doesn’t see me or a good guy like the guards in front of Buckingham Palace—nothing gets them off track. Again, no reassurance as to how to label him.
Interestingly, no one who was awake around me seemed fazed by this random passenger hanging out by the john. Side note, I have never used the term john before, but it seems somehow fitting in connection to this mysterious stranger. Passengers needing to use the restroom would either go in without looking his way, or those more polite would confirm that he wasn’t waiting to use it. I was hoping one of them would strike up a conversation, “You have been here a long time, are you waiting for someone?” No such luck.
As I continued to watch, my hope that he was a good guy aka an Air Marshal was pretty much confirmed by the actions of the flight attendants. It would seem that someone hanging out in the aisle for 30-plus minutes is going to get questioned, but it didn’t happen, not once in the many times different attendants passed by him. Not a second glance, not an offer to help, nor a request to be seated for blocking the aisle. No interactions what so ever.
At some point during this process, my husband Gary woke up and I whispered my suspicions in his ear. Here again, I found myself lamenting my inability to use Google and not being able to research Air Marshals. Now that I had pretty much decided this man in business attire is a good guy aka Air Marshal, what was I to do with this info?
As time went on, I allowed my imagination to travel from feeling good about the fact that we had this added level of safety on our flight to believing the guy playing games across the aisle is a psycho! At any second, something bad is going to go down right in front of me.
I will add that I am an “average” flyer. I pray before takeoff and usually as we approach landing as well. Thankfully, I relax during flights except for during excessive turbulence. If you, dear reader, are someone who can sleep through turbulence, you have reached a higher level on the mountain than I.
That being said, having this Air Marshal camped out next to me on the plane might have surpassed any previous levels of anxiety brought on by turbulence. Let’s just say I was saying many prayers of thanks when we landed in LA safely with no incidents!
As I reflected on this experience later, God highlighted to me the irony of the emotions the Air Marshal invoked in me. Now able to use Google, here is what I found: “The Federal Air Marshal Service detects, deters and defeats hostile acts against aviation.
Federal Air Marshals are armed federal law enforcement officers deployed on passenger flights worldwide to protect airline passengers and crew against the risk of criminal and terrorist violence.” Sounds pretty convincing and safe. This description describes almost superhero level abilities from these officers.
But for me, I didn’t feel safe; I felt worry and concern. God then reminded me of the realities of His protection over my life.
“Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.” -Psalms 91:9-11 NKJV
If we put God first and surrender to His leading in our lives He has a spiritual version of Air Marshals ready to stand guard over us. They truly do have superhero level abilities.
But we do not rely solely on our Heavenly Air Marshals for our protection. As a child of the Most High God, He Himself is our protector, our shield, our covering! The Psalms remind us that the Lord Himself encamps around those who fear Him. He is our hiding place where we are preserved from trouble.
Even in the heat of our personal battles when we see destruction all around us, we are assured that it shall not come near us! (Ps. 34:7, 32:7, 91:5-7).
Although, during this recent flight, I forgot the truths found in the above verses, that did not change the reality of His protection over me, only my experience of it. In Scripture, my Heavenly Father is compared to a good shepherd. I know this to be true for my life. He faithfully provides, guides and protects. Be it turbulence, Air Marshals, or even sleep deprivation, He is where my peace can be found at all times; I only need to receive it.
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” -John 14:27 NKJV
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