“Ladies and Gentleman, we have a slight problem,” the pilot said interrupting my late-night conversation with a seatmate.
“You’ve probably noticed that we’ve been circling our airport for the last fifteen minutes. Unfortunately, we don’t have an indicator light telling us that our landing gear is deployed and locked.”
The announcement had interrupted a conversation I’d begun three hours earlier with my seatmate when I’d introduced myself as a local pastor.
“I used to go to church, but I don’t anymore. I miss it,” he confessed.
During those three hours, he talked about how he’d let his family and spiritual life slip away from him during his climb up the corporate ladder. He wondered aloud if there would ever be a time when he would renew that spiritual connection.
Finally I suggested that there was a way he could reconnect with God right now. “You don’t have to wait until Sunday church meetings.”
“You mean, pray? Here on the plane?” he asked
“Yes,” I said, “God isn’t a bit embarrassed.”
“I’m going to have to think about that,” he mused. Too concerned over what part God would have in his future, he had no time to think about finding God in the present. “I’ve got a lot of commitments on my job and I don’t want to commit to God and end up shirking my commitments again.”
About that time, the pilot made his startling announcement. “Not to worry, folks, we’re going to be met by some emergency vehicles.” And with that little announcement, the flight attendants reviewed the correct posture for crash landings.
A few minutes later we whizzed down the runway toward an armada of emergency vehicles and slowed toward an uneventful stop.
As the turbines softened and the clapping stopped, my seatmate turned to me and said, “Whew, I was beginning to think that there was some sort of higher purpose for us being together.”
I’d like to tell you that I gave him a sage answer, but I was busy rooting through my carry-on to replace my sweat-soaked shirt. Most of my answer was simply a nervous laugh and a “Yeah, well, maybe.”
My wife met me at the gate and we hugged just a bit tighter than most newlyweds.
“Wow,” she said pointing out on the runway to the returning fire trucks, “I wonder what they were doing.”
“They came to meet our plane,” I softly explained. “The pilot told us he wasn’t sure we’d have a wheel to land on.”
My wife stared at me with a look that went into the next county. “What?”
“Yup,” I said, throwing my stare to the ground.
The thoughts that my wife nearly saw my plane cartwheel down the local rice fields brought some fairly instant tears between us.
Years have passed since that incident and I can’t tell you if my seatmate ever found a “purpose” for that little scare.
The only purpose I can tell you is that it had me thinking about moving – changing addresses. For you see, as a newlywed couple beginning a family, we had been mostly living in the future.
When you’re young you spend a great deal of time living in the future; and when you’re older you tend to spend too much time living in the past. The problem with living at the address of “Future” or “Past” is that there will never be a way to relive the past, and we’d just witnessed the fact that we could never be confident of the future. So these days, as much as I can, please look to find me right here in the present. And as far as I can see, that was the plain purpose of that plane ride.