Of Crosses and Incantations
Last week, while flying into Chihuahua City, prominently on display (at least for those seated on the same side of the plane as I) was a cross. Not an actual cross, but a lighted outline on the side of one of the many hills in the area. This cross could also be seen from certain parts of town at night.
Given that we are talking a largely Roman Catholic country, with a heaping helping of superstition added for good measure, I wondered what the intent of this cross was. Was it there merely as a reminder of the sacrifice of Christ? If so, then I don't know that I would have much problem with the display. But I wondered if perhaps it was more of a talisman. Something to help ward off evil spirits. Was this cross placed here more as a magical object, like something people wore around their necks in the old vampire movies?
I didn't have long to think about this before we started banking to line up the landing. It was at that point that I began my ritual prayer. I'm not one of those people who are terrified of flying (like Earl on last week's episode), but I do tend to be a little anxious, particularly during take-offs and landings. A fair part of this concern is not having any control in the situation. In a plane, you are truly along for the ride. So, in the past, I developed a habit of praying during take-off and as we descend for landing.
Now, if you do the same, God bless you (particularly if you are on a flight with me). But I had been thinking about how superstitious a cross on the side of a hill was, and I realized that my prayers had become little more than an incantation to invoke God's favor. I was not in the least seeking to glorify God and have communion with Him. I was trying to bind Him into making sure we didn't crash.
Now, I'm not saying you should not pray for a safe flight. Nor do I want you (or me) to stop giving thanks when God brings us safely to our destination. But I realized I needed to be willing to say to God that I turned the entire trip over to Him. That regardless of the result, that I wanted my life to glorify Him. I want my relationship with God to be more than the relationship I could have with a genie in a bottle, and I don't just mean I want more than three wishes. I want the wishes (aka - supplications) to be a minor part of my prayer life, whether I'm on a plane or on the ground.
See, the reason I could identify superstition in placing a cross on a hill is because it's in me. I have my own talismans and incantations. I may not display them as prominently, but they are in my life. But I long for more than a rote religious experience with God.
I'm not talking about some deep spiritual encounter here (though that would be great, I don't see a Biblical warrant for expecting such until my plane does crash, if you know what I mean). I am talking about knowing Him by the Spirit through His word and having real communion with Him in prayer.
So it's not that I stopped praying during take-offs and landings, but I tried to alter the nature of the prayer. I still prayed for a safe, uneventful flight. And I gave thanks when we taxied to the gate. But I tried to examine my motives, and I tried to leave my anxieties in God's capable hands. I tried to acknowledge that since He is in control, I don't have to be.