John and I met in my yoga class. After class, he walked over to thank me for the session. As we chatted, I noticed his t-shirt which said “HAWAII – North Shore Glider Rides.” We finished our conversation but as he was about to walk away, I blurted, “I like your t-shirt. I lived in Hawaii for nine years. I always wanted to go for a glider ride but never got around to it.” He looked surprised. I was a bit surprised that I’d even said anything since I don’t usually comment about t-shirts. He responded: “That’s what I do. I fly gliders. I’ll take you for a ride sometime if you want to go.” I was intrigued. He gave me his e-mail address. Two weeks later, I went for my first glider ride. The experience was powerful. I processed the experience by writing the following reflection which I titled, “Soaring with God.”
A friend of mine is a pilot. He recently took me for my first glider ride at a small glider port with a grass strip out in the country. This was something I’d always wanted to do, especially during the years I lived in Hawaii, but the opportunity never arose.
Since a glider has no engine of its own, it’s attached to a rope and pulled up into the sky by a tow plane. Then at 3,000 feet, the glider pilot pulls a lever to release the tow plane. To my surprise, my friend put me in the front seat. He sat behind me and controlled everything dealing with take-off, flight, and landing. But since I was in the front seat, it was my job to release the tow plane. This was effortless, even fun for me — not scary at all.
Gliding in the blue sky was very peaceful. I enjoyed the views of the countryside and the glider port below us. At one point, my friend tapped me on the back and informed me that I was flying the glider; he wasn’t doing anything. This was a shock to me because I didn’t think I was doing anything. Later, he asked, “What’s our altitude?” I immediately looked at the altimeter and responded, “2,000 feet.” He chuckled in a way that seemed to say, “See how quickly you catch on?”
At home, as I pondered what I’d experienced in the glider, I realized the Lord had given me several important messages for my spiritual life. First, just as I effortlessly released the tow plane, I need to release the various attachments in my life. My major attachment at this point is to my spiritual director. In a way, he’s my “tow plane.” I count on him to help me ascend toward God. But now I see that I’m safe; it’s okay to let go and put my trust completely in God. It’s fun! Life is an adventure!
Second, my pilot is the Holy Spirit. Although I cannot see Him, I am never alone. He gives me the courage to fly with confidence. Whether or not I have a sense that I’m controlling the course of my life, He is the One who is ultimately guiding everything. He is flying and He will bring me home safely.
Finally, I understood that God is pleased with the progress I’ve been making in my spiritual life: He is smiling at me — even chuckling — because He’s proud to see me “catching on.” This is an important message for me because I tend to focus too much on my mistakes or on how far I still have to go.
This experience has given me much peace and consolation. The timing is perfect, too, because my spiritual director is out of town for five weeks. I am not afraid because I KNOW I am not alone — I am soaring with God.