I recently returned from a summer trip to visit family with my mom. I clearly remember sitting in the Seattle airport, finally able to relax, awaiting our last flight across the country to reach our destination. My mom and I had just finished a delicious dinner and a piece of dark chocolate…but that day wasn’t all bliss.
After the 3 AM alarm, we headed to the airport, only to find out that they had oversold our flight, and there was only one seat left. Even though it is common to split up when flying standby, we were going to stay together. So after a few stressful moments and groans of regretting the 3 AM alarm that now seemed unnecessary, we left the airport to try again five hours later. Round two didn’t fare much better; we boarded the plane, only to sit on the tarmac for half an hour. Then, the pilot aborted the takeoff, returned to the gate, and had us all get off of the airplane. By this time, my mom and I should have been angry, or at the very least, annoyed. Not getting on our first flight was a bummer, and having to get off of the second flight was frustrating, but our attitudes (especially my sweet mama’s) were different from some of the other passengers. We listened as the woman behind us snarled remarks into her cell phone as she described the series of unfortunate events to someone on the other line. She was extremely angry, and, while she had a right to be, it surely didn’t improve her situation. Who do you think had more peace and joy in their heart in that moment? My mom and I who carried on, snacking on pistachios and enjoying the adventure, or the woman behind us, complaining and blaming the pilots? We took a step back and looked at it this way:
1. No amount of bitterness or rage could have made that plane take off.
2. A safe and late plane is better than a dangerous and on-time plane.
3. Everything happens for a reason, even if you don’t know the reason.
We still don’t know exactly why we weren’t able to get on those two flights like normal. Maybe there were serious mechanical issues that could’ve caused us harm. Maybe God was just testing our patience. Or maybe we were supposed to encounter people later on in our trip that we otherwise never would’ve seen. If our plane hadn’t been delayed, I wouldn’t have sat and had dinner with my mom in Seattle at the time that we did. That means I wouldn’t have seen that little girl FaceTiming her daddy right next to us, which made me cry and think about my daddy. It made me think about how much I hope she hangs on to him forever. We wouldn’t have seen that patient young couple walking slower than everyone else in the airport. We wouldn’t have looked down to see their three-year-old son behind them, using a walker. Maybe I was supposed to see that man eating his lunch, that man who didn’t have teeth. That man who reminded me how much I take my own human attributes for granted. I wouldn’t have gotten tears in my eyes as the thought flooded in: I never truly know what’s going on in someone’s life. We have no idea how blessed we are until our hearts are broken by watching someone else struggle…and still smile through that struggle. How dare I complain about a silly flight delay when there are people who are not complaining, even though their battle is unimaginably painful.
Whatever delay you are facing today, be grateful for it. Maybe your plans (or your plane) aren’t taking off. Your dreams or your heart were just shattered. You’re feeling lost and lonely…remember that everything happens for a reason. And whether or not you ever find out that reason is not important. Your knowledge and understanding, or lack thereof, doesn’t change the fact that God knows. He is already aware of who, what, when, where, why, and how. You don’t have to know everything; you have to trust in the One who does.
So, my flight was delayed twice. Big deal! While those delays set my arrival time backward, they pushed my heart forward. They shook up my judgments and challenged my patience. Those people that I saw in the airport made me think about things in a refreshing way – I will never forget about them and the lessons that they were unaware they taught me. Those delays weren’t delays at all, they were a part of God’s plan. He knew that I needed a perspective shift that day, and knew just how to get to my heart. The delays are part of the journey. So embrace them. Learn from them. Don’t scowl at them, smile. Because they will take you right where you need to be.