I’d just gotten seated, on the second leg of my flight home last night, after speaking back East. I look up to notice a mother and her young daughter, juggling overflowing shopping bags of belongings, spilling out each step, as they stumble towards me. After several minutes of commotion, involving the assistance of several kind passengers gathering up spilled items and jamming their “luggage” into the overhead, the two eventually flail into the seats, next to me.
It looked as though they’d packed in the dark…while maneuvering through a wind tunnel.
The mom was exasperated. The pre-teen daughter was full of answerless questions such ask when they’re tired, irritable, and just want their mom’s attention. The mom gave the short and exasperated responses one gives when they are publically embarrassed and just want to be left alone for five minutes to figure out next steps.
Eventually she asked me if I lived in Phoenix. I told her I did.
She looked into my eyes and said, “We’re moving there. My daughter and I. We’re starting over.”
Her voice contained a mixture of fear, false bravado, and the thinnest tenor of hope.
We spoke for a bit until her daughter reclaimed her full attention.
The mother looked back at me, feeling the need to apologize for the commotion that could ensue for the rest of the trip. She said, “I’m very sorry.”
I smiled and told her not to be. Inside, I braced myself for a potential four hours of flying horror.
Then, within minutes, almost instinctively, they curled up with each other and fell fast asleep for nearly the entire flight.
And I sat there for much of the four hours, imagining their story. A beautiful young woman falls in love in Cincinnati, Ohio. She has so many dreams. They have a daughter. He works in a factory, but they’re getting by. The economy goes south. He gets laid off and now drinks too much. She works two jobs while raising a daughter now mostly by herself. He has an affair, mostly to childishly prove to himself he’s still a man. She discovers it. And in a blind rage of betrayed trust, a car is hastily packed and a driver is paid to haul it across the country. It cuts a third off of what she has remaining from before her husband spitefully shut off the bank account. And now the mother and daughter are sitting next to me, on their way to a new everything. They’ve chosen Phoenix because they’d been there once to visit a relative.
Just an hour ago, I was judging this woman for how poorly she was parenting her daughter. Now, asleep in each other’s arms, they both look incredibly and sublimely heroic.
I could have the story all wrong. But the fact that the daughter was with her, was enough grounds for me to suspect I might not be far off.
When they awoke, as we made our final approach, they were both now so kind and tender to each other. They just needed sleep. They just needed to regroup. They just needed to remind each other that in a world pulled out from them both, that they would not pull away from each other.
And this occurred to me again:
*Not only Christ believers are heroic.
*Not only Christ believers can love sacrificially.
*Not only Christ believers can continue to have hope in near hopelessness.
*Not only Christ believers desperately need each other.
*Not only Christ believers desperately need to know the surpassing love of a God who loves
them more than they love themselves.
I wish I could tell you that in those next five minutes of waiting for the cabin door to open, I shared the love of Christ and now that mom is a small groups leader in our church.
That moment never happened. They were preoccupied, down on the ground, increasingly concerned about a missing shoe that apparently had slid several rows forward.
Before we got up, I caught her eye. I smiled and nodded to her. I was trying to say with my eyes that I was proud of her. Trying to say that she was not alone. Trying to say that she and her daughter are not far from the Kingdom.
What do I know? They may both know Him more tenderly than I.
I do know this:
The Kingdom is found by those who know they can’t make it without the King.
“Jesus, you love them both more than I know how to fathom. Bring them to Your safety. I do not ask as though you need to be reminded. I ask because you love it when I’m moved to do so…
…and thank You for finding me…wandering around with belongings spilling all over.