Flight Attendants, Prepare for Landing


“Flight attendants, prepare for landing.”

The captain’s voice is always calm, a studied calm, a Houston-we-have-a-problem calm. Landing means we must leave this glassy smooth cruising altitude of 30,000 feet and bump our way through the lumpy atmosphere below the clouds.

I heard the captain’s words Saturday on final approach to JFK, returning home from a long vacation abroad. My ears pop as the plane descends. Hydraulics whine as the wing surface expands. The Airbus jolts as it hits the atmospheric equivalent of a pothole. The wings pitch. The tail yaws. Now the babies start crying. They are like canaries descending a shaft, sensing before the rest of us that this will not be easy. This air, swirling with heat, is thicker, uneven, choppier.

Finally the landing gear deploys. The floor seems to be cracking open. Bulky wheels unfold like sails, catching the wind and sending a shudder through the vessel. The overhead compartments creak and jitter.

No one likes this rocky ride, but it is the price of landing. Unless we are going to cruise at 30,000 feet forever, we have to buckle down and ride this thing home.

A wise counselor used to tell me—when I complained of tumult and uncertainty in my life—“there’s turbulence at the boundaries.” You can’t go anywhere, move from one place in life to another without some turbulence. Which is why we all try to “cruise” through life. We know that going to a new and different place will mean agita and unrest, the smooth ride we’ve been enjoying at cruising altitude will end. Of course, after we endure the turbulent journey the ride always evens out and we can cruise for a while—but in a new way, in a different place. Healthy change and growth is always a cycle of cruising, then hitting tumultuous sailing as we pass from one level to the next, then cruising again.

“There’s turbulence at the boundaries.” Jerry’s words were always a gift to me. They reminded me: turbulence is normal. Fear always makes us want to undo whatever we’ve done to cause turbulence. But this only assures stasis—we flee back to cruising altitude and we’re stuck.  Once we know the rocky ride is normal and isn’t going to kill us, we can hang on, get over that boundary and into a whole new landscape.

If you’re encountering some turbulence right now, I want to offer you the same wisdom Jerry gave me. It’s normal. Hang on. Don’t turn back. You’ll get there.

Flight attendants, prepare for landing.

12 Responses to Flight Attendants, Prepare for Landing
  1. Alice in LA
    June 25, 2012 | 9:22 am

    I think 2012 has been more turbulent than any other year, including the loss of my husband in 1998 followed by my longtime job in 1999. I keep saying I just need to hold on until it levels out and see where we land before grabbing for a parachute, only not in those exact words until I read this.

  2. Sally
    June 25, 2012 | 1:14 pm

    ‘Turbulence in the boundaries.’ Indeed there is. Love this post. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Michael
    June 26, 2012 | 9:00 am

    True David. So true. Thanks. Needed this today.

  4. Ginny Lovas
    June 26, 2012 | 9:59 pm

    This is wonderful, and so very, very true – a real keeper! Ginny

    • Steven D. White
      June 28, 2012 | 10:32 pm

      I would say that in my decades of reading so much of what has been sent from St. Lukes, the writing tradition is alive and well and in good hands. I have always found the writings of the last couple of rectors to be insightful and has often given me pause for good thought. It is a great connection for me to the church and my faith. The efforts of those who have written and David Anderson’s writings are not lost upon me and have been greatly appreciated over the years. On occasion, I have kept certain things and keep them in a safe spot and go to them in times of unsettlement. Its like having an ace up your sleeve! Thanks to David for the wonderful efforts.

      • David
        June 29, 2012 | 10:17 am

        Thanks, Steven–Happy to remind you that God is in fact your eternal ace up your sleeve!


  5. Jim Cameron
    June 28, 2012 | 4:56 pm

    As one who HATES to fly, I can relate!

    I can take the bumpiest train ride, getting tossed around on Amtrak, and not care one whit. But put me in a metal tube and let me hit turbulence, and I’m a baby.

    A few years ago on an Air Canada flight we hit clear air turbulence and dropped 5000 feet in five seconds. Drinks flew skyward, people shrieked. But belted in, I stayed put listening to the inflight audio: Frankie Goes to Hollywood singing “Relax”.

    Clearly, God was letting me know who was in charge.

    • David
      June 29, 2012 | 10:18 am

      Jim, that’s a hoot!

  6. Gloria Hayes
    June 29, 2012 | 1:28 pm

    In Scotland right now. Flying home Sunday. Hate to fly. Thank you David. I will read this every time we hit turbulence. Also, when we hit every day turbulence when we get home. Gloria Hayes

  7. Lida Ward
    June 29, 2012 | 4:09 pm

    I haven’t been on your blog in too long – shame on me! This was exactly what I needed to read today as I juggle the act of mother to three and trying to figure out how to shuck the corn, give Margaret her bottle and iron Tim’s shirts all at the same time :). This is the reminder I needed to hang on, have faith and take a few more deep breaths. It will be okay. God is with me. Thanks, David!

    • David Anderson
      June 29, 2012 | 6:34 pm

      Wow–that’s a day! Remind me (when I think my life is too stressful) not to change places with a mom with three kids like you!

  8. Joan Collins
    June 30, 2012 | 3:19 pm

    David, thank you for —–“Prepare for Landing”. With a grandchild (Kathleen) in England at University of Durham I’ve considered going to see her. Normally I like to fly and I can certainly relate to your description of the bumpy ride through the clouds and the thump on hitting the runway. Yep! Life is like that!! Most likely I will not get to the U.K. She’s a busy gal, having picked up a summer job at the Olympics.(Please note new e-mail address) Glad you’re home. Joan

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