It was a little over a week ago when I was sitting in Newark airport waiting for my flight to clear. Delayed twice with storms in our destination - I had no idea when we were going to make it into Orlando. I was in no rush given the report, but I still didn't want to spend my day stuck in a blue, soiled, leather seat.. watching the digits on the clock increase by the hour.
It's a work trip so I'm surrounded by people I know. We board the plane with a 2.5 hour delay, and the conversations begin. I'm sat in between a man and a woman, a Director and an Account Executive. Let's call her "Sally." Let's call him, "Jim."
It's no secret that it hasn't stopped storming; our flight attendant confirmed. We were taking off anyway, and would fly through it when it was time for our descent.Jim greets me with a hello and shameless confession - he had sweaty palms. He didn't like that we were flying and just didn't know what would happen. He tells me he's nervous. And while I'm no fan of parking on the thin line between foolishness and faith.. or thinking I'll defy the natural laws of the earth insisting Jesus will protect... I chose to trust God in one thing. I had purpose remaining, and I was on that plane. I had no other assurance or conviction in that moment that the flight would land. Call it weird. Call it ridiculous, but I couldn't trust the airline to be faultless in determining when a flight should take off. Even experts make mistakes. I plead the blood of Jesus a few times under my breath, and then a little louder as we take off. I told the woman to my left and the man to my right that they'll have to excuse me in advance if I pray a little louder in turbulence. I can't sit here and pretend. I was nervous too. I'd never boarded a plane in a storm. What kind of airline delays for 2.5 hours and then just gets fed up and puts us on the plane anyway? I looked to my right and told Jim not to worry. I told him I prayed God would pick up the plane, hold it in the sky, and put it down where it needs to be when it needs to be there. Perhaps I should've first asked if he even believed in God, but sometimes I just like to throw His name around. God...: ) My friend. Jim nodded his head. Almost awkwardly, with a nervous chuckle. Maybe reaching for that same unfamiliar hope - a little faith.
Still - almost absolutely silent, under my breath, I had a chat with Jesus.
"You know.. I don't have it all together, but I believe that one, you love all these people and would love to get the glory for a safe landing. And two, you really have great plans for my future. Now, you know the details. I do not... but You're not through.. Am I right about that? I owe you a bit more -- surrender & obedience. I think there's more work to be done."I think we all think about what we should and could be doing when things get real. And then we land and forget. No bueno.. But I had another reason I wanted the plane to land. The woman to my left, "Sally." She was a real force to be reckoned with - known to be a bit boisterous, very honest, even inappropriately at times, nice lady, but definitely an out-loud thinker leaving no stone unturned. Her voice was raised, naturally above the rest of our side conversations and mumblings, but she assures everyone that she really can't take this and will be shutting up real soon. She didn't like the uncertainty. Would the plan land? Would it crash? She didn't like not knowing what would happen. She valued her life and we all did, truthfully. We wanted to live. I tell her Jesus will land the plane. Name dropping again. She tells me she's an atheist :) Yikes and bikes. I got the right one this time... She goes on to tell me that she doesn't like what religion does to this world. "It's so divisive," she says. At one point she was agnostic and did believe in a "higher power," but now she just didn't believe in anything. She ends with, "But whatever works for you, that's good. Whatever you believe is fine with me." I smile and nod, praying for wisdom and grace.. .because now wouldn't be the time to respond with a half-hearted, watered down conviction. Now wouldn't be the time to give up Jesus so the conversation would end promptly and peacefully... As far as I was concerned, our lives were on the line and I needed God's attention now more than ever. She continues with a story about her upbringing - her faith journey and how it ended. Before we know it, we're back at square one, ..the issue at hand.
"Well, I'm just going to believe that Jesus will land this plane where it's supposed to land.
No worries, Sally."She widens her eyes with some sort of inquisitive shock. Hard to really nail what she was thinking. She smiles at me - looks at the people to her left, and then shouts to our co-workers behind us. "Shea's got Jesus," she says, "and I'm an atheist! She's got the praying down. Hopefully we'll be fine!" She told everyone I was her good luck charm and soon after sat back and closed her eyes. She was paralyzed, in fear, ...as still as a living vegetable. I'd never seen her so quiet. Jim is staring dutifully out the window. No more conversation with him. Though we did discuss his three children, his wife -- his reasons. I remembered that God said He'd give us power to speak over situations and change them for our good and His glory...to speak things that are not, as though they were -- that if we asked for anything according to His will, He'd hear us, and it would be done. I asked for peace - peace in the storm. We hit some turbulence in the sky, but expected much more. And I'm not going to lie. I did throw my prayer language out there a few times... I was preparing for some sort of Six Flags special ride effect. Maybe a huge dip and then back up again. But nope, not at all - it wasn't that bad. We hovered in the sky over Florida for some time. The pilot didn't want to land in the storm - We finally pull into MCO.. We get to the hotel and Sally beats me to our company's registration desk-- the good news was going to get out. It's just consistent with who she is:) "Shea had Jesus, and we landed safely!" The story greeted me when I checked in for the day. My co-workers and I laughed.. Sally was so funny, as usual.
I couldn't help but smile at the glory of God - that even an atheist has testified.You get in the sky and you realize how small you are, how helpless you are, and how you are truly at the complete mercy of "something else."
We can't really depend on chance.. only the Creator.
We can't deny there's something else we need.Hope. Faith. Some kind of Foundation. We can't just chalk it up to how the chips may fall. We'll have to give glory to something eventually - to Someone, eventually.
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." - Psalm 19:1
Who could've set the sun, moon and stars in place?
What proof have we, that He doesn't exist? Our limited understanding of His ways?
Is it our hurt, perhaps, with what He has allowed?We want to wrap God up and say we've got Him figured out. But truth is there's not much more in this world that we have a good handle on. What else have we truly FIGURED OUT? We don't have all the answers. But we're living, and we're making it. We just know with some things. And we know because we see, we touch, we taste, we hear, we experience. I hope that in moving from fear to relief, from take off to landing, Sally experienced the grace and intentionality of God. That in her seat of desperation, He reminded her of His reality. That just as the sun lights the sky, she realizes that He put her on earth because He wants her here. He wants her to acknowledge a potential relationship, not religion. I wondered where I'd be if I did not have this living Hope, this Help, My eternal life insurance. I wondered how I would deal if I did not have this Savior. What do I believe? ... that Jesus is Lord, and He kept us. And we are God's creation -- so very precious in His sight.
If you really want something to believe in,
you have something to believe in:)
*** Bible Verses ***
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. 6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: 7 all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, 8 the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."