Boarding was at 10:30 am for a quick flight from Omaha to Dallas to attend The Declare Conference. I edged in my seat, ready to board as the speaker clicked on.
“Ladies and gentleman, we’re having some trouble with the luggage door on the aircraft. We apologize for the short delay this will cause us in boarding. As soon as we get the door open we will begin boarding. Thank you for your patience.”
The next time the speaker clicked and I edged forward . . .
“Ladies and gentleman, the door issue is a little more complicated. The repair will take a while, but we’ll keep you updated as we know more. We apologize and thank you for your patience.”
After 6 hours of updates, another aircraft was available. We boarded in a rush, but soon deplaned without going anywhere. Before we could leave the gate the pilot had reached his legal time limit for flying that day.
While waiting for the plane to leave the gate, a strange thought had come to me.“Was I the one keeping the place grounded? Was I headed to a conference I wasn’t supposed to be at?”
I remembered Jonah on a ship in a terrible storm. The sailors were crying to their gods for help. Jonah said, “It’s me! Just throw me overboard and the storm will stop. I’m not supposed to be on this ship, I’m going the wrong way.”
“It’s not all about me,” I thought. “I’m not special like Jonah. Besides, if I got off and just drove back home, nothing would make it obvious that it was me.”
The thought stuck with me, (I even told Jeff Goins about it later when meeting him for the first time. I felt stupid. “Did I always have to be so transparent??” ).
Shaking my head inside my head, we deboarded the plane and finally took off 2 hours later. Third time’s a charm they say! We were finally headed for Dallas! I was excited to at least meet some people after missing registration, dinner, and the first keynote speaker Mary DeMuth. I also had an agent critique waiting for me at 10pm I could still get too!
Before landing, a weather front moved into Dallas and we were rerouted to a nearby freight airport. We sat for 2 hours before flying back to Dallas in 15 minutes at 5,000 feet.
The shuttle friends I had planned to meet left long ago. I took a taxi in the dark, arriving at the hotel in time to sit in on an impromptu session with the agent. I sat quietly in the back. At almost midnight, waiting in line for my critique, I introduced myself to the person standing closest to me. We exchanged cards and made small talk. She was ahead of me in line and I overheard her story which took a lot of bravery to share.
I was kind of a lost puppy the whole weekend, not knowing anyone aside from their picture on the Facebook page. I introduced myself a lot and asked questions of others, but didn’t chum around with anyone. Here and there I went to say hi to Jacque since she was the first person I’d met after my late arrival. Still small talk really, but I was drawn to her.
I enjoyed and learned lots, and planned to exert myself until 10pm the 2nd night, then cut myself off. I needed a good rest for my early flight out.
I took my ipad to bed to set the alarm and Jacque was still on my mind. I peeked at her blog, read her story in 11 parts, and cried. Her story was written into a series of several posts chronicling her marriage, affair, divorce, and second marriage. I read all 11 parts of her story and cried.
I cried because I knew. I knew what it felt like to realize you’re the worst sinner. I knew why Mary Magdelene cried over Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair, not caring what others’ thought. My story was like hers, but different. Every story is about a wandering heart looking for the right place to settle.
Tucked under the fluffy white hotel bedding, I shivered. My feet were like ice and my teeth chattered. I knew something else . . .
I knew why the first plane’s door wouldn’t work, and the second one had enough of a delay to boot the pilot off. I knew my silly thought made sense and that I wasn’t supposed to be on that plane at 4:30 and why our 8-hour delayed flight was comically diverted by wind and rain. I arrived in time to meet Jacque when she told her story loud enough for me to hear.
There I was, alone in a hotel and He was there giving me shivers. I lay there in the sheets, my heart lay exposed. It’s done its share of wandering. He wanted more of it and was giving me more at the same time. This was the time and place He wanted me to see.
The next morning, Jacque unexpectedly joined my group on the shuttle. Out of 6 of us, she and I were alone in the AA terminal for an hour and I told her my stuff. Small talk was over; we were friends. We rejoiced together to know what mercy feels like, to have our “good girl” shells cracked open to know it up close and personal.
So was the day all about me? All that drama that sent people into a tizzy? More than my mind can take, I’m sure the chaos could’ve been worked out for everyone in a different way, a different story, if they were paying attention.
But there’s another thing I know . . . A shepherd who says He’ll leave his 99 sheep to find the one that’s lost her way.
And that’s not all. Check out Jacque’s account of how we met! We were at The Declare Conference: One Message, Many Voices. Our message? There is one watching and waiting to show love to you!
Next time things go “wrong,” start watching. How have you seen God’s love more clearly through inconveniences or struggles? Have you felt the pursuit of the Lover of your soul?