Anna was watching a movie on Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 when the engine blew out. The next twenty-two minutes were filled with sounds and experiences she will always remember. Anna is twenty-three years old and has a lot to teach all of us. If you had to consider the end of your life, and all that truly matters, who and what would you think about?
Anna’s mom, Linda, is in my Thursday Bible study and we have known each other for a lot of years. Our sons were in high school band together and played in their own band, The Review, for a couple of those years. Linda was our real estate agent, and blessing, when Jim and I bought our home. So, I was shocked when I saw the Facebook post about her youngest daughter, Anna, who was on the ill-fated Southwest Flight 1380.
Anna wrote an essay about her experience. What does a twenty-three-year old think about when she is wearing an oxygen mask on a plane that appears to be crashing? Her thoughts have a lot to say to all of us today. The things that matter most in those moments are the things that matter most right now. Here are Anna’s thoughts, in her words:
My mom’s face, and how she would cry when she found out I had died.
How my baby nephew wouldn’t remember Aunt Anna.
How my family would cope with the loss of their littlest.
If a plane crash would hurt, or have immediate effects.
If I would be received in Heaven with my God, or otherwise.
I thought of my friends attending my funeral.
If there was a chance someone could survive a plane crash.
If we could land on water somewhere, knowing we weren’t far from New York.
Young, young, we’re so young.
Take me to your glory, take me to your glory.
Family. Friends. Faith. Life. Eternal life.
The plane was surrounded by clouds for most of its descent and Anna said the “white noise” of the engines was deafening. But then came the moment when the plane cleared those clouds. Anna described those moments like this:
Seeing the earth was a comfort. There was not a feeling of landing assurance really, but I think just getting to see your home one last time was somehow significant. Once we got closer to the ground, I looked out the window and saw water and started to cry. In my mind, we had reached a river and were going to land on it, Sully style. The flight attendants began screaming “Brace” and then a crew member came onto the overhead speaker, yelling “heads down, stay down” on repeat. I braced and braced and wondered if there was a better way I should be positioning my feet and if I should bend my legs or keep them straight or hold Connor’s hand or just keep looking at his feet. I didn’t feel a thing and then I heard cheers. When I looked up and saw that we had LANDED- ON THE GROUND- AT AN AIRPORT- I was absolutely overcome with the most blatant and undeserved gratitude and joy. There will never be a joy that will match that. I began sobbing very uncontrollably and unashamedly. I remember repeating over and over again “we don’t deserve it, we don’t deserve it”.
I read Anna’s words with my own tears of gratitude. A woman lost her life on that flight and I would never want us to forget there is a family who is grieving today. At the same time, there are hundreds of families that are living with a new sense of gratitude for life.
A lot has been said about Tammie Jo Shults, the navy veteran pilot that landed the plane. She is being called a hero who walked the aisle of that plane after it landed, comforting the passengers with smiles and hugs. The crew keeps speaking about her “calm” in those moments. I’m waiting to read the article or book she will write someday. We know that after landing the plane she sent this text to her friend and fellow navy pilot: “God is good.”
God is good. He heard the cries of a twenty-three-year old girl who needed his promise of heaven. I imagine God listening to the prayers of the pilot who felt responsible for each of those lives on the plane and the prayers of other passengers of faith. And I know God was pleased with Anna’s priorities as the plane was descending. Family. Friends. Faith. Life. Eternal life. The matters that matter most.
None of us will probably ever experience what Anna and the others on that plane felt during those life-changing twenty-two minutes. But all of us will need to ask Anna’s question: Will we be received in heaven with God, or otherwise? There is no reason to live another day on earth without knowing your answer.
Romans 10:10 says, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Acts 16:31 says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Salvation is God’s gift of grace, purchased for us through the death of his Son, and available to anyone who chooses to receive it in faith.
Statistically, only a very small number of people will die in a plane crash and statistically, everyone will die someday. Statistically, not nearly enough of us understand what Anna understood as the plane was crashing. At the end of our lives we want to say, “Take me to your glory. Take me to your glory.”
The pilot texted, “God is good.” Anna wrote, “There is no way I could have found peace and calmness in what was destined to be a plane crash without knowing that I was a believer, and that I believed in Heaven, but even then, there was this real desperate sense of helplessness and doubt in myself. I felt disappointed in myself that I wasn’t more sure in that moment. I KNOW I am assured by God, but these minutes were fast and scary. It’s indescribable that I get a second chance at getting to know my God. NOBODY DESERVES LIFE, MUCH LESS A SECOND LIFE.”
Heaven is real and everyone should want to spend their eternity there. You can make the choice today by simply praying, “God in heaven. Thank you for loving me and for sending your Son, Jesus, to die for my sins. Forgive me for those sins and come into my life and my heart. I receive your gift of salvation with grateful praise. Thank you for your forgiveness, for saving my soul and for your gift of eternal life. May I live this life with your peace, purpose and priorities until I step into my eternity. In the name of Jesus, my Savior, Amen.”
God is good and able to save. Don’t live another moment of this life without the promise of heaven. Anna, Tammie Jo Shults and this blog writer want you to know the joy and assurance of your salvation today.