After I had settled into my plane seat and opened a book (Ascent of Mount Carmel, which I have read before but could read many times more) for my trip from San Angelo to Dallas, an angel-like apparition of bright and gold filaments suddenly stood in front of me. The apparition spoke three curious words: “Be not afraid” and dissipated. How strange, I thought, and looked around to see if anyone else was reacting to this image. Apparently not. All the other passengers were busy reading, putting their bags away, and the like. Since this was the first time I have had a locution in a public place, I had (and still have) no idea how to interpret what happened. How could I alone have seen and heard this being so clearly?
For the life of me, I had no idea why I would be told not to be afraid. I fly nearly every week, and I have never experienced any fear of flying even when small problems have occurred before or during flight. The thought that maybe something was going to happen to this particular plane, even that perhaps we passengers might be going to die, flashed into, through, and out of my conscious mind. Then, I dismissed the event as an unexplained (and unexplainable) curiosity and settled into my seat with my book.
Partway through the short flight, bolts of lightning splayed outside the windows on both sides of the plane. We were caught in a thunderstorm, the likes of which only Texans know. Apparently taken by surprise, the pilot seemed to lose control of our small plane as we pitched from side to side and up and down for a few minutes. Passengers gasped. Clearly, some were quite frightened. The voice of my traveling companion sounded strained when he conveyed his concern about the lightning that continued to light up our evening flight.
We were on a downward path by that time, on the way to landing at the Dallas airport. Dark cumulus clouds surrounded the plane and haphazardly tossed lightning bolts into the atmosphere, some of them coming close enough to the plane that their wake jerked us in a direction other than the one in which the pilot was headed. We had quite a pile of them to plough through.
“Well,” I told my traveling companion, “the only way down is through these clouds, so there are probably not many choices that the pilot has. Besides, we are in a small plane, and buffeting is usually more exciting in a puddle-jumper.”
I was not concerned. I had been told not to fear, the reason for which had now elucidated itself. Clearly, all would be well. And it was.
With such things—visions, which I get rarely, and locutions, with which I have been blessed (or cursed) somewhat more commonly—I am always uncertain in my interpretation, even more so since reading St. John of the Cross’s warning to be cautious in interpretation of visions and locutions for not all come from God and even in the case of those that do, the linear, logical interpretation of immediate access to human beings is far more limited than God’s view and even perhaps intent:
“To try to limit them [sayings and revelations] to what we can understand concerning them and to what our sense can grasp is like attempting to grasp the air and some particle on it that the hand touches. The air disappears, and nothing remains.”
I seem to have reached a stage in my spiritual development in which I can comfortably pay them less heed (unless they involve a tasking). I look forward to the day when, having matured spiritually into an adult, I can “put away childish things,” to use St. Paul’s metaphor, and understand what God would have me know, learn, and/or do without the need to use the physical senses necessary for visions and locutions.
For now, though, I do not have the foggiest idea why I was told not to be afraid for I do not think I would have been afraid, anyway. Still, maybe I have one foot still dragging through the stage where I find it comforting to receive evidence that God is taking care of me. One day perhaps both feet will be planted on higher ground. For now, I just say thank you.