There are times when it’s embarrassing to be me — days that call to mind my Mama’s words: “I can dress you up, but I can’t take you anywhere.”
This weekend was one of those times.
I was rushing to make an early flight to see my Mama in Southern California. How early was it? It was so early, that if I’d bothered to say my morning prayers, (and God knows I should have) they’d have likely become crossed with the bedtime prayers of Friday night revelers.
But it wasn’t just my prayers I’d forgotten. Arriving at the airport, I also realized that I forgot my wallet. And unfortunately, airports employ hundreds of people to guarantee not even a chaplain has a prayer of flying without an ID.
Fortunately, I’m married to a wonderful woman who uttered not an errant word when awakened to my request that she bring the ID to her absent-minded husband.
Yet despite her quick willingness, my stress level continued to climb as I calculated the half-hour window I’d need to pass through security. Hoping to curb that anxiety, I paused a few moments to voice some prayers and exhale some stress.
Thirty minutes later, I exchanged a kiss for my wallet and I began my race through the airport. As I approached the security line, I focused my gaze on what seemed to be the only escalator available.
Unfortunately, a dawdling family with preschoolers was approaching that same escalator.
OK, here’s the part where it was really embarrassing to be me.
Behaving like that old Beatles’ song that says, “He’s got a ticket to ride, and he don’t care,” I said, “Excuse me. Excuse me. Passing on your left.”
But the request only startled preschool girl and she moved in my path. My response was to gently nudge her aside.
Halfway up the escalator, the mother responded with her own chastisement. “There was another escalator!”
The blood drained from my face as I stared at an empty escalator parallel to mine. Worse yet, the security gate was clogged and it was thoroughly obvious that the family would soon join this impatient chaplain.
There’s a self-test question I occasionally ask: “Whom will I choose to be at a time when no one else knows who I am?” Meaning: When I’m in a situation where no one knows me as a person of faith, will I continue to demonstrate faith?
The Bible says, “Be perfect as God is perfect,” but there are many days when I am far from that goal, days in which I need an anonymous support group such as Jerks Anonymous.
These are the moments where I would stand to confess, “I’m a jerk and it’s been 10 days since I behaved as such. And it’s only by God’s grace that I can avoid being a jerk at all.”
And at the end of the day, it’s often helpful to look at these failures as a much-needed humility lesson, which shows me that I’m rarely the great Christian I sometimes think I am. I’m constantly in need of God’s grace.
As the family approached our meeting point, I was honestly hoping the security X-ray would detect some odd anomaly and I would be hauled off in the handcuffs I so richly deserved. No such luck, so instead, I took the risk of begging the family’s grace.
With my hand to the heart that God had blessed with another beat, I fully and profusely apologized. And with a wave of her hand, the mother accepted. Then, about 30,000 feet over the California desert, I paused to apologize to God, the one whom I had truly offended.