One morning I boarded an early flight to Florida for a music gig. I stashed my guitar overhead, claimed a window seat, and turned up some ambient music in my headphones. My mind scrolled through the usual anxieties, like old tapes on repeat. From a west-facing window I found myself ruminating over some troubling circumstances that were pending resolution. My forehead rested on the window, surveying the gray, shadowed landscape.
It was dark as we ascended through heavy clouds. Most of the window shades were closed in the cabin. The light slowly began to change. A little time passed, then someone on the left side of the plane opened their shade across the aisle from me. The morning sun shot a blaze of pink light across my face. The sunlight lifted my spirits.
I looked back to see the view out the west-side window. It remained predominately dark. I had been so wrapped up in my tiny scope of vision that I hadn’t realized the sun had crept over the horizon. While one side of the aircraft was glowing with light, the other was still in the shadows. Perspective has a way of shifting our experience.
On any given day, I could make a list of my anxieties, but the morning light shining on the east side of that airplane reminds me that I could just as easily make a list of the good gifts that God has given me this week, this month, or this year. The people of God have long practiced this sacred remembering. We call it “practice” because we are forgetful people and we have a limited view of the whole picture.
In the words of the beloved hymn: “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’ve come, / And I hope by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.”
This second verse of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” recalls the story of the Ebenezer stone in 1 Samuel 7. The Philistines were invading Israel when the prophet Samuel cried out to God to rescue them. The Lord answered, and Israel’s enemies drew back. They were saved. After the battle, Samuel erected a stone to mark the place for future generations to see. The word Ebenezer means stone of help. It marks a place. It is a remembering.
Sometimes I choose to look out the dark side of the plane, into the shadows, and I focus on what is broken or needs repair. This is essential to know and consider the reality of our world. But I can get stuck there.
When the psalmist sings, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him” (Ps. 42:5), he invites us to see the light pouring in. Hope gives us something to sing about. With the help of the morning sun, the kindness of a friend, or small acts of serving others, we can actively participate in lifting our hearts before God.
From a tiny window, we can see the darkness for what it is. But by faith, when we look to the east we can see morning breaking. Scottish pastor Robert Murray M’Cheyne once wrote, “For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.” Though we still acknowledge the shadow, we set our face toward the light. In God’s great mercy, “he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3).
But no matter which window I looked out, all the while I was strapped safely in the window seat of that airplane. And all the while the pilot continued to steer the plane toward our destination. In spite of our shifting perspectives, we have a destination. God has gone before us to lay out a good plan for our lives (Jer. 29:11, Isa. 30:21). Even as we keep ourselves on the trajectory that God has purposed for us, he holds us and guides us along the way.
Back in Orlando, we arrived at the airport right on schedule. I gathered my bags and marveled at the ordinary metaphor of grace found in an airplane and a sunrise. Although my perspective may ride the roller coaster of changing conditions, the coordinates that determine my landing place are fixed. “He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand” (Ps. 40:2). Whether it is high or low, day or night, my destination is secure.
Sandra McCracken is a singer-songwriter who lives in Nashville. Follow her on Twitter @Sandramccracken.
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