Faith, is boarding an airliner.
No one person could ever possibly understand the myriad, intricately connected systems involved in getting a Boeing 757 into the air, with up to 279 passengers and their bags, from all over the world, many of them not even speaking English.
When we face the unknown, or when we wish God could explain the mysteries of life and the universe to us, we often struggle with this concept of acting in faith. We wish to believe only what the eye can see, what the mind can comprehend. Yet, look how easily we sstep onto a jumbo jet and forfeit our need for in depth understanding without putting up the slightest protest. When was the last time you saw someone hold up the line at the boarding gate by demanding an explanation of Bournoulli’s Principle before getting on board the aircraft that could never take flight without it? Only an infinitesimally small sector of the public has any knowledge of how their suitcase managed to flawlessly and miraculously navigate its way through hundreds of meters of conveyor belts to the correct airplane. And at our destination, rather than being appropriately astonished by the miracle of our bags having accomplished the journey at all, we impatiently tap our feet if it’s not one of the first to appear at the luggage carousel, perhaps several thousand kilometers away from where we last saw it. Indeed, none of us knows how or why the complex control systems work the way they work to effect a simple roll or pitch correction in mid-flight. Even the pilot can not possibly have any more than the most basic, cole’s notes awareness of how her subtle hand motions send electronic signals to mechanical and hydraulic actuators that fluidly shift and distort the physical shape of the tennis court sized wings behind her, which were designed by teams of dozens of engineers and hundreds of fabrication and assembly workers all around the world whom she will never meet. In fact, the pilot is almost certainly unaware even of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of chemical and neurological signals required for her brain to identify the information displayed on the flight instruments before her, and send the correct muscle commands to her hands to pull back on the controls to lift the nose wheel at just the right moment for the giant plane to take flight. And it all happens within milliseconds and without her needing to give any of it a single conscious thought. For all her oblivious hand muscles know, or the oblivious wings, wheels and whirring turbines, or the two hundred oblivious passengers behind her for that matter, the pilot could just as well be deep in thought about her son’s report card at that very moment and it would make absolutely no difference or have any impediment on the miracle we call air travel.
So, why do we (at least those of us who aren’t white knuckle flyers) find this pill so easy to swallow, yet question and doubt so many of the miracles and intricacies of life that are the complex design of the very creator of life itself? Why can we trust an international team of aerospace engineers but stumble when it comes to putting our trust in God or in our own future fate? Surely it can’t just be the excuse that we can’t see God or talk to her/him to have all our questions answered, to explain away all our misgivings. Because we don’t even do that with the very humanly real, flesh and bones engineers walking among us who could quite handily justify to us why we should place our faith in ailerons and jet fuel without fearing for our lives. We just don’t seek them out to ask the questions.
Medical science continues to unveil things about the complicated biological systems within our bodies that were previously inexplicable for thousands of years. If we were content as a species for so long to accept the inner workings of our own bodily functions at “face” value, let alone those of jumbo jets, then why do many of us as individuals now demand to see proof of the existence of a creator, a concept that was also almost unanimously agreed upon by human civilization for most of our existence?
It’s a curious thing what we humans choose to question in life and what things we consciously, but more often unknowingly, take for granted. As I sit here in seat 17D, blistering along at almost a thousand kilometers per hour, 34,000 ft above the earth somewhere between Dallas and Calgary, surrounded by people surfing the internet on their laptops, I can’t help but wonder how different the world might be if we all had a little more faith in the things that really matter. Not just faith in the technology that allows us to check our email at 34,000 ft, but faith in ourselves to do the right thing. Faith that we are all worthwhile people and that we’re loved. What would change if we believed a little more in the people we live with and work with, the strangers we sit beside on transcontinental flights, and yes, maybe even the enemies we fight against in schoolyards, conference rooms and battlefields. Great things would change in our world and in ourselves if we believed that we’re on the right path, that things happen for a reason and that we don’t need to worry about the things outside of our control. Just like how we rarely fret over whether or not the landing gear are locked in the down position before we touch down.
But this doesn’t mean we should accept everything blindly and think that because God’s in control we can just let go of the steering wheel and never contemplate the future or take personal responsibility for our lives. It’s good to question things, even things about our own faith and beliefs. I don’t need to understand how wi-fi works in order to change my facebook status, just like I can happily continue breathing without actually understanding how my own lungs work. But, I would be fascinated to learn about it, just like I’d also be curious to know how dreams work, how sea turtles find the beach to bury their eggs, or why it’s considered a national security threat for one person to carry 105 mls of contact lens solution onto a plane but it’s fine for 250 people to each carry on 999 mls of unidentified gels or liquids onto the same plane.
We’ve all got questions, because there are many things in life that just don’t make sense. Like why children get cancer, or why we make similar mistakes to those our parents made. But it’s when there don’t seem to be easy answers that we need most of all to find that balance between having faith and asking questions.
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