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Airplane with passengers

Close Call: Resisting The Call

Every goodbye carries with it an unspoken question: will we meet again in this life, or perhaps the next? That day, as I watched Sally’s taxi disappear in the distance, I found myself grappling with this question. We started the day as perfect strangers and by its end, we felt like siblings bonded by an experience that was both humbling and illuminating. 

The day started with a whirlwind of anticipation. I had been granted an audience with the Chief Technology Officer of one of the largest global consulting firms to share an idea that could revolutionize telecommunications. The night before I had a flurry of thoughts, none of which were quite ready to become a presentation. I planned to spend my flight home putting my thoughts into a presentation. 

In the months leading up to this day, I’d been used as a vessel of God’s grace. Almost every week, His love flowed through me to the people I’d met in airplanes, trains, and business meetings. However, for the past three weeks, His presence felt distant. I wondered if it was something I had done, or perhaps He was working with someone else – a ludicrous thought considering He is the God of the universe who doesn’t need to choose between tasks. 

On this week’s flight, I found myself hoping for solitude. My work felt too important, my excitement so intense I’m sure others noticed. As I sat in the airport terminal, words for my presentation flowed freely. I hoped for an upgrade to the first-class cabin—a quiet sanctuary to focus on my work. However, those hopes were dashed when the gate announcer confirmed it was a full flight. 

And then, I saw Sally. Her hunched posture and paper bag full of clothes seemed out of place in the bustling airport. She moved with the awkwardness of someone who had been drinking, and I remember thinking, “I hope she doesn’t interrupt my work.”  

But life, and the Holy Spirit, had other plans. As I boarded, I tried to ignore Sally, but something, or someone in the universe forced our paths to cross. Her bag ripped in front of me, scattering her clothes on the terminal floor. Compelled by basic human decency, I helped her, secretly praying she would be seated far from me. 

Once on the plane, my fear unfolded. I made it to my seat at the back of the plane.  The plane slowly filled.  As it did, I started to think “maybe, just maybe I would have the back row to myself.”  Then Sally entered the plane.  She stumbled through the isle being somewhat belligerent to the people she bumped into as if it were their fault for being in her way.  She kept coming closer and closer until she made it to my row.  “No! It can’t be,” I thought to myself.  “Of all the rows on the plane, how did she end up in my row?”   

I helped her put her clothes in the overhead bin as she took her seat by the window.  I was on the isle.  I was consoled by the thought that the plane was supposed to be completely full.  At least there would be someone between us.  Maybe I would still be able to work on my presentation.  Then the preflight announcements began, and the doors closed.  In disbelief, I learned that there was one extra seat.  The only empty seat on the plane was between Sally and me.   

Despite my silent prayers for solitude, Sally was guided towards my row. With an empty seat between us, I couldn’t deny the glaring message from the Holy Spirit anymore. I sighed, putting away my computer and said, “Ok, I get the message. I’m all yours.” 

The illusion of control in our lives is just that—an illusion. Despite my resistance and futile attempts to cling to my plans, I was reminded that I was part of a bigger story, a story that wasn’t centered on me or my business presentation. It was a story about reaching out, building connections, and sharing God’s love—even when it feels inconvenient. 

As I began to converse with Sally, I learned about her life’s tribulations. A month before, Sally sought refuge with her twin sister in Chicago while authorities were looking for her abusive husband who had beaten Sally bad enough, she had to be hospitalized. He was found and incarcerated, so she could return to Kansas City. Her painful story invoked my response, “it seems like he needs to be introduced to Jesus to tame his anger.” This led to a revealing discussion about her faith. 

Sally professed her love for Jesus but confessed a deep-rooted fear of God the Father. Her past experiences had cultivated a distorted image of God in her mind. Her mother’s mental illness and her brother’s suicide, both whom she believed were a result of God abandoning them, led her to associate an unscriptural fear with God the Father. 

Guided by the Holy Spirit, I found myself articulating scriptural truth to Sally, aiming to restore her understanding and love for God the Father. By some divine plan, I had an extra Bible in my suitcase, which I gave to Sally along with a brief lesson on how to discover a new perspective of the God she had been fearing all her life. 

When we landed, I helped her collect her belongings and hailed her a taxi. Our paths diverged once again. 

This was a close call, a moment where I almost let worldly pursuits overshadow the spiritual connection I was meant to make. However, the nudges from the Holy Spirit can be relentless, guiding us back to the path we’re meant to tread—even if that path begins with helping a stranger pick up her clothes in a crowded airport terminal. 

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