Good Riddance, Atlanta
I spent nearly two days stranded in the Atlanta airport last week.
My Thursday flight back to New York was rescheduled, then delayed, then rescheduled, then finally canceled at around 11 PM.
I found a cheap hotel just a few miles from the airport and was told by customer service to return to the airport for a 12:30 PM flight the next day.
I got a good night’s sleep, got up, got to the airport on time, went through security, grabbed a coffee, and headed to my gate to board the plane only to find that my flight had (again) been rescheduled, then delayed, then yep... you guessed it. Cancelled. I was finally able to board another flight around 2PM and landed just in time to be greeted by the satanic-rush-hour-gridlock that is New York City traffic.
Two Ways That I Respond
When this happens to me on my many commutes via plane, I (typically) have two responses as I stand there staring at the schedule on the screen in disbelief.
#1 — If I don’t have anywhere I have to be and I have my laptop and my phone, I’m fine. I can get work done. I can talk to people that I need to talk to on the phone. I can watch a show, take a nap, and best of all, I’m free from having to manage my young children. In some way, it’s like a mini vacation, albeit in the most uncomfortable of architectural structures known to mankind.
#2 — If I have somewhere I need to be, I boil into a frothing fit of rage because now I’m going to be late for my commitment, which will make me late for the thing after it, which will make me late for the thing after the thing after it. This is when I’d like to walk over to the closest airport eatery, slouch up to the bar and shout, “Bartender! Ice and Vodka please! And on second thought, make it a double!” Then sit, stew, and sulk, perplexed by the fantastic disorder of the universe.
When Plans Don’t Fall Into Place
If there is any job in the world that is filled with the stranded, the delayed, and the unexpected, ministerial work is certainly near the top of the list. Things are always changing. People are always coming and going. Someone is always sick or dying, while at the same time people are getting married and having babies.
I’ve been in situations where I would go from officiating a wedding, then hopping into a cab to go sit with a family at the hospital who wanted me to be with them in the final moments of their loved one’s life, then hopping into another cab to go be with a family who just had their first baby and wanted me to meet the new little one, then finally hopping into another cab to get back to the office so that I can start writing the sermon that I have to deliver in a few hours.
Two Ways To Respond
Like my two responses in the airport, I can also feel tugged to respond negatively or positively in my line of work when the unexpected happens. I can ball up my fists and go on overload, or I can open my hands and say, “Thank you, God. It’s a privilege to be by the sides of these wonderful people and to share in their loss, their gain, their grief, and their goodness.”
Wherever you are in your life today, remember that there is something sovereign (and sacred) at work in the chaos. Gravity will do as it wills, pulling all things into their intended formations. All we are responsible for is giving in to it. Sure, we can rev up the engines of our craft and try to resist, but when we run out of fuel, Gravity will defeat us anyway. It defeats us because it loves us, and it knows our proper place in the cosmos far better than we ever will.
Gravity is grace at work.
So save the fuel. Let yourself be pulled toward whatever comes. Open your hands, get to work, and be thankful. If you do, you’ll discover new worlds of faith and feeling that you can’t even dare to imagine.