By nature, I am not one who loves to travel. Some people speak of loving to hit the road or board the plane. My favorite place to go is simply home. Yet the nature of my work involves a good deal of travel. Now past all those Covid restrictions that kept me joyfully nearer my home last summer, I found myself back on the road and in airports quite a bit over recent months.
Do not get me wrong. When I do travel, I am always blessed when I land at my destination. Seeing God’s kingdom and meeting His people in different parts of the country this summer has richly blessed me. That part I love. When I speak about not loving to travel, it is the traveling part that really gets to me. I prefer the ends and not the means.
Part of my traveling reluctance has to do with the fact that I need a lot of help to travel. I’m hopeless with details. My wife understands this about me. She knows not to entrust the job to me of getting everything I will need into the suitcase. So she carefully and faithfully packs for me, then instructs me patiently like a preschooler on what color ties goes with what shirt, where my toothbrush is, and so forth before I leave. But it does not always help.
Just the other night I returned from Texas. I waited a few minutes before I told Miriam that she actually forgot to pack me a pair of blue socks for my return home. Inwardly, I was viewing this as a moment of triumph, as I was going to say this forced me to wear the same socks twice. But insisting she had packed said socks, she went over to the suitcase and, voilà, pulled them out from some magic place where I had searched multiple times (She also said she had told me before I left where they were). I sighed like a deflating balloon.
At RPTS, thankfully I have a wonderful assistant who arranges all my travel details for me now. No more of me scheduling tickets for the wrong days, getting a.m. and p.m. mixed up on my tickets, going to the wrong rental car agency, etc. This help has removed some of the curse of traveling for me.
Yet it is really the airports and airplanes that get to me. No, not so much because I’m afraid of a plane crash. It’s the other things. The frenetic pace. The crush of people around me. The impatience of many. The wearing of masks and constant reminders to do so. The cancelled flights and delays going home. Trying to fold up my 6'5" frame so that I’m not touching someone or invading their space.
However, I received a blessing, an unexpected spiritual joy, in an airport on the way home from Texas this week. I was standing in the boarding lane of Southwest airlines, and was in a position in their open seating policy to get on board early. I could get one of those exit row seats with the extra legroom I crave. However, when the attendant began to announce it was time to board the plane, she addressed the pre-boarders first. As they began to line up, a rather large crowd of people grew in front of the gate.
At that moment, I have to ashamedly admit that I began to get vexed inwardly. My legroom was under threat! Memories of that one flight squished between two obese people who overflowed into my space while my knees were pressed against the seat in front of me came to mind. If the truth be known, I started getting bothered, impatient, and antsy. Then the Lord opened my eyes.
For those pre-boarding were aged, had broken bodies, sat in wheelchairs, or were single mothers with little ones. As they hobbled, rolled, or jostled on to the plane in front of me, the attendants helping them along, these pre-boarders pictured the parables Jesus regularly told of the kingdom of God. Where the last go first. Where the crippled, lame, and blind are honored. Where its citizens become like children.
As I stood there, the means to going home became the ends of what home ultimately is. For even in airports, Christ is with me, reminding me of His truth. Love transcends self. Joy comes in serving others. The kingdom of heaven is for the humble.
I did not get the exact seat I wanted on the plane. But I did smile as I sat there that I am on a journey to a far better one.