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Who's in control, anyway?

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

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During hurricane season two years ago, I was traveling in an airplane over the North Atlantic. During our ascent the air was clear and smooth, but as we reached our cruising altitude, the captain came on the intercom with some unsettling news. He told us to look out to our west at a large mass of clouds that represented a hurricane traveling up the East Coast of the United States, and since that was our destination, he said he wasn't sure just what to do, but he would get back to us.

The woman next to me immediately panicked. She started yelling, loud enough for everyone on the plane to hear: "This plane is going down! I know it! I can feel it! This plane is going down!"

This was not the message people wanted to hear at that moment.

I knew I had to do something about it, but first I sat quietly for just a minute. I've learned that fear can't control us when we acknowledge and feel the power and presence of God.

I placed my hand gently on her arm and said with authority: "God is in control of this plane. God is in control of this plane and the entire universe; therefore, we are all safe. Nothing is going to happen to this plane. We are not going down."

Pretty soon the woman relaxed from her frozen posture, and eventually she turned, looked me in the eye, and said, "You know, you're right, and I can feel that now. God is in control and nothing is going to happen to us."

She spent the remainder of the trip happily chatting with the family in front of her, whom she discovered she knew from back home. The pilot found his way around the storm, and we completed our journey safely.

As I settled back into my window seat, I thought about that affirmation of God's control. Just how did I know that was true? Isn't the world a dangerous place, full of storms, wars, terrorists? I could see that on a human level control is a complicated concept and is connected to many factors, ranging from individual physical and psychological disorders to family tumult, political tyranny, and natural disasters. But I instinctively knew I was not going to find any satisfying solution by delving into these dimensions of control.

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