I lay in bed for half the night before I decided to give God a chance. I had been listening to some radio preacher challenge his audience to believe that God is in control at all times. Not only that, but to believe that all of the frustrating, screwy things that happen in a day are really God’s way of protecting and leading us. I usually get really upset when things go wrong, but I began to wonder if this guy knew what he was talking about.
Well, I decided to try it, starting the very next morning. My friend Bill and I were scheduled to fly to Minnesota to meet a potential client and I looked forward to the daylong trip. I planned to meet Bill at the airport and decided that nothing was going to upset me. Whatever happened would be God’s will.
Morning came quickly. Everything went great. I awoke just before the alarm went off, packed a few final items, and headed to the airport. Traffic was fair and the weather was OK. I really didn’t think much about the radio preacher until I tried to check in.
Bill and I had bought E-tickets, and there was no line at the kiosks. As I pulled out my confirmation number, I looked at the swarm of travelers trying to check in at the counter. I couldn’t figure out why everyone wasn’t using an e-ticket. I felt just a little bit of pride at my foresight. I typed in my confirmation number. Nothing. I glanced over at Bill and I could see the aggravation on his face as he jabbed at the touch screen again and again. I looked at the passengers swarming like ants over the ticket counter. I began to get angry. What was wrong with this machine? Couldn’t the airlines get anything right? It was then that I remembered the preacher. I took a deep breath and told myself that I wasn’t going to get upset. This was God’s decision and there had to be a reason He wanted me to wade through the struggling mass of travelers.
Bill and I joined the throng that moved inexorably closer to the counter, an inch at a time. I glanced at my watch. There was still time to make the flight. As I moved closer to the frustrated ticket agent, I began to feel proud of myself. I had weathered the storm, and all would be well.
Bill beat me to the counter, and as I crowded in behind him I heard the dreaded words that sent a spark of anger and anxiety racing through my heart.
“I’m sorry, sir, that flight was cancelled two weeks ago. I know the computers still had it listed this morning, but there’s nothing I can do.”
No wonder the stupid kiosks didn’t work! There was no flight! No flight and 120 other passengers all fighting for seats on what remained. They all knew about the flight being cancelled and were getting seats on other planes while I was smugly punching in my confirmation number at the kiosk! What an idiot! My voice rose above the torrent, as I demanded a seat on whatever plane they had.
“I have an important meeting! If I miss this meeting it’s going to cost me a ton of money! What’s wrong with you? Can’t you people do anything without screwing it up?”
I heard the preacher’s voice. Could it be? How was this possible? What was God doing? Giving me some crazy test and putting my business on the line? But, I thought, it is His business. I took another deep breath. O.K. We could still get there. I calmed down and waited for Bill to try and work his magic.
“Alright, we got a flight. Last seats. We got to move fast if we’re going to make it.”
I grabbed my boarding pass from the woman and ran towards the gate. That’s when I saw it. Like a giant creature, the security line snaked through the corridor and around the corner. I stopped moving and stared.
“Bill,” I whined, “there have to be a hundred and fifty people. We’ll never make it.”
“Maybe it’ll move quickly.”
I took a baby step forward, along with ten or fifteen other passengers.
No way, I thought, as I looked up and down the line for a sympathetic face. “Wait here.”
About halfway down the line a couple of college girls were laughing as they wheeled their bags a foot or so closer to the metal detectors that stood in the distance.
“Excuse me. We’re about to miss our flight. Can we cut in?”
The girls were accommodating and I flew back to Bill.
“Thank God! I can get us halfway there. Come on!”
The line slithered toward the sniffer machines and metal detectors. As I looked at my watch, time seemed to eke by, passengers oozing slowly through the machines, one drop at a time. The security guard checked and rechecked identification. He took time out to joke with a couple of pretty girls. Apparently, the guard had some common interest with a short, fat businessman with a goatee. It seemed as if he had some reason to chat with every passenger that came through his checkpoint; passengers who seemingly had nowhere to go, who had time to converse with a man they had never met before and would never meet again. I wanted to scream. I’m not going to let this get to me, I told myself as I struggled in vain to get my driver’s license out of my wallet. The thing was stuck in its pocket. Of course, the guard couldn’t actually look at my license behind the clear plastic window. No, it had to be out and I needed it out now. I tugged on the card and a few scraps of paper fell to the floor. I let out a long sigh.
OK, I guess this is where I pass or fail the test. I’m just going to slow down and let it happen. If we make it, we make it. If not…l
I picked up my notes and succeeded in getting to my license. Even though my shoelaces got knotted up and I had to struggle to slip my shoes off without untying them, I was relieved that the buzzer didn’t go off as I went through the metal detector. I could see that things were beginning to get a bit better when the security staff let my bag go through without inspection and no one wanted to take me aside for a personal search. I got through the security checkpoint and began to run. Bill was right behind me as I handed my boarding pass to some guy in a uniform and walked outside towards the plane. We made it!
As I looked at the plane, I was reminded of the vacations I had taken as a child in the mid-fifties. The thing must have been pulled out of some flight museum. Its aluminum skin seemed pale and weathered, as if it hadn’t flown in decades. We clambered up the steps and into the cabin. Everything seemed worn and the upholstery smelled slightly. I took my seat and waited. Had God been trying to tell me something? A sense of foreboding came over me. Even Bill seemed uncomfortable. I looked at the passengers. All of them seemed weary. I supposed that most of them had been on the cancelled flight. I tried to strike up a conversation with the stewardess.
“This is my last flight.” Her voice seemed resigned and, I thought, prophetic. She was retiring, but those words kept going through my mind.
“This is my last flight.” Was God in control? Did He want me on this flight? I wanted off, but the plane began to pull away from the gate and on to the tarmac. I guess I had to take a chance on God; that He was in control.
“Please, God,” I prayed, “If you don’t want me on this flight then you’re in control. Get us off this plane.”
No sooner had I prayed, than the plane came to a stop. After a minute or two, the door opened. A flight attendant stuck her head through the door, looked directly at me and said, “Karl, Bill, you need to get off. Come with me.”
I couldn’t believe what I had just heard! They had rolled up a stairway and we were on our way out! I jumped up; so happy I could have started singing. I grabbed my bag and turned to look at the less fortunate passengers who were doomed to continue the flight. As I stared from face to face, I felt like I was leaving the Titanic as she prepared to depart for her final voyage. A kindly, middle-aged lady said she was sorry I had to get off. Perhaps we would catch another plane. I told her no, I was more than happy to go. As I turned to leave I prayed, “Father, if this plane is going to crash then get all of these people off. Cancel the flight.”
Bill and I descended the stairs and returned to the terminal. We discussed whether we should try and postpone the meeting and catch another flight or take the morning’s events as ample evidence that God wanted us to stay in Indianapolis. We decided on the latter. After calling our prospective client, we turned and walked past the gate. People were streaming into the terminal. Bill and I looked at each other. The flight had been cancelled.