Due to Sharon’s cancer and chemo treatments, June 8-9 was a rare out of state trip for me. I went to Bayside Community Church in Tampa. I always enjoy speaking there and visiting with the people.
In the first service I spoke on the transformed life (Rom 12:1-21). In the second service I spoke on the need for all of us to be church builders, not church destroyers (1 Cor 3:5-17). Both were well received.
I enjoyed a nice lunch out and got to the airport two hours before my 4:13 flight.
We boarded normally at 3:43. We left the gate and taxied to the line of jets waiting to take off. Then the first announcement came. There would be a slight delay. We sat for several hours. After several announcements, we headed back to the gate to refuel.
We went out again and got back in line. After a long wait, we were first in line to take off. Thirty minutes and several more announcements later, we were told we were going back to the gate again. Because the crew had exceeded its hours for the day, we all had to deplane and wait for a new crew to arrive. It was now 8 pm.
We finally got a crew a little after 10 pm. We thought we were leaving within the hour. But at 11 pm, they announced the flight was canceled due to a backlog of planes stacked up in Dallas.
I waited in line for about thirty more minutes. I was given a choice of going standby on Monday or having a confirmed ticket Wednesday. I took the standby ticket. They were saying the first twenty would get on, and I was in the first twenty.
I was told that this new flight would leave at 9:30 am, but that we should be back at the gate by 8:00 am. It was now midnight.
I decided to try to get some sleep in the gate area. I slept four or five hours.
Around 9 am, I learned that my new flight was leaving at 1:45 pm.
But I didn’t get on the 1:45 flight. In fact, no standby passengers did.
I’d already been in the airport 24 hours. I was like the chicken who didn’t make it across the road, tired.
I had a few more opportunities for standby that day. If I didn’t make one of those flights, I had a flight out at 6 am Tuesday.
I asked Sharon and her friend Marguerite to pray that I get on the 5:30 pm or 6:30 pm flights. I also asked my sister Pam and several other Christian friends (Diane Boring, Shawn Lazar, Dave Stephens) to pray.
I nearly made the 5:30 pm flight. I was number five on the standby list. They gave away a few seats and then called the standby person directly ahead of me on the list to get the last seat on the flight. No response. I said, “I’m next on the list.” The agent said, “Well, I need to give her a few more seconds to respond.” She thought and decided to announce the name one last time, which she clearly did not have to do. Suddenly the woman yelled and ran forward and got the last spot. While I was happy for her, I was very unhappy for me.
But I got on the 6:30 flight, barely. One of the gate agents announced they were oversold, and no standbys would get on. Since I was number 4 on the list, it looked glum. But it turned out that in the end they had room for three standby passengers. When one of the people ahead of me on the list wasn’t there, I got on. Yeah.
It is now Tuesday morning and I’m at the office. Barely. I slept very soundly. But now I am feeling all that time in the airport.
I learned a few lessons from my twenty-eight hours waiting in the airport.
First, James 4:13-17 applies to more than not boasting about business or sporting success. It also means that we can’t be sure that the little things in life will always go the way we’ve come to expect. The Lord may have other plans. I’ve flown on thousands of flights. Only twice before did I have to stay overnight due to a missed flight, and both times I had a confirmed seat the next day. This was a unique situation for me. But it was all in God’s hands.
Second, asking others to pray even for a small matter like this is a good move. God answered the prayers. I very easily could have missed both of those flights and then had a short night’s sleep in a hotel, getting up at 4 am for that 6 am flight.
Third, I saw some growth in my reactions to all these trials. I typically do not do well with interruptions to my daily routine. I am a bit like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. But somehow, I did not blow up. I think all the experiences of waiting and uncertainty with Sharon over the past six months have made an impact on me.