Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A change of plans

Ephesians 5:8-14 (NIV)

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible — and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper,
   rise from the dead,
   and Christ will shine on you.”
I was supposed to be writing today from 30,000 feet in the sky, but I did not get to board a plane this morning. Long story short, the flight was canceled and we’ll try again Thursday. The upside was I decided to take off the rest of the afternoon from work so I could pick up Max and then Jack from school, and my unexpected presence let Kristie go to a school meeting tonight while I stayed home with the boys. Max knew I’d be getting him after school, but Jack had no clue. It was pretty neat to watch his facial reactions to seeing me standing in the gym. Some surprises he can handle just fine.

We got the automated phone call about the flight cancellation seconds before putting our items on the security scanner belt. We cleared the checkpoint, put our shoes back on, and in mere seconds were standing at the end of an overcrowded, understaffed customer service line. This is what happens when 37 rows of passengers need immediate answers on their new itineraries.

As soon as I got the phone call, my mood darkened. No one appreciates getting such unexpected news anyway, and a pending TSA screening isn’t exactly like waiting to ride Space Mountain. But I made the choice to try to deal with the frustration with as positive an attitude as I could muster. First I considered my advantages — only a short ride home from the airport, flexible plans at our destination, no checked bags to track down and so on. It did not take much chatting (or eavesdropping) to realize how few of our fellow passengers had such freedoms.

Then I took the next step and considered the plight of the airline agents. Even more so than newspaper editors who field angry phone calls and open “cancel my subscription” letters, airline customer relations employees almost never get to deal with happy customers. The best they can do is offer appeasement since it is beyond their power to offer the only thing people want: to get on the plane they paid for and arrive at their destination on time. How miserable it must be to clock in and get chewed out for issues far beyond your control for eight hours, then punch out only to do the exact same thing the next day and the day after that.

Maybe my facial expressions or body language weren’t the best. But I tried to be courteous in my interaction with the airline employee. I avoided joining in the idle threats, spoken to no one in particular, to never again fly this airline. I held back (I think!) from passing silent judgment on other passengers who were less composed and unafraid to use profanities while addressing people just trying to do their jobs.

In short, I worked hard at responding to unpleasantness with grace. I was attempting, as the cited passage suggests, to live as a child of the light. Allowing anger to creep in would have been poisonous, so I struggled to keep it at bay. This is not to brag, because I’m positive I left significant room for improvement, but to serve as a reminder to myself that I am capable of putting into practice the ideals I claim to seek. At least in part, and not without concerted effort, but still I feel validated.

On balance, I’d rather have just gotten on the plane. But at least I am far more at ease this evening than I was last night. Seeing as I didn’t really want to be away, I felt blessed to get a bonus afternoon with my boys. Hopefully tomorrow’s travel plans go smoothly, but I should remember I don’t need brazen adversity to be light in the Lord and to strive for what pleases God. Those opportunities are abundant as the breaths I draw in and the seconds that tick off the clock. Shine on me.

A prayer for January 23:

Lord, thank you for your guiding presence in the midst of strife. Please help me to remember your willingness to stand by me in every situation. No matter how positive or negative I might be feeling, I know you are always with me, ready to delight in my joys and comfort my sorrows. Help me do by best to be your light in this world. Never let me forget without you I am in the darkness, and that only you can illuminate the path of true righteousness. Guide me always. Amen.

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