When I sit waiting at airport gates, I’ll gaze out the window at the sun falling beneath the runway. Other times I’ll put my ear buds in and start observing the inside of the waiting area.
Like right now, there’s an older lady sitting across from me fiddling with her boarding pass. The guy sitting to my left is sporting a cocked hat, baggy jeans, loose shirt, and a oversized coat — he’s gazing out the window. I have a feeling he’s thinking about something or someone back home. Then there’s the couple in their early 50s sitting across from me. She’s fast asleep, her head resting gently on his shoulder and a smile on her face. He has a golf magazine in his hand and home on his mind.
Over there is a middle aged woman with a thick book in her hands — but she keeps looking up at the blazing, beautiful, blinding sunset. I don’t think she has turned a page since the sun started dropping.
There are so many more people, from businessmen with their laptops and Blackberry’s out, to a young boy sitting with his mom about to take his first flight alone. Of course this terminal wouldn’t be complete without a group of high school students returning from some camp or field trip, rambunctious and rowdy, towing their iPods ands souvenirs.
The intercom just cracked on: “Would those traveling on flight 1331 please make their way to the gate. We will now begin boarding.”
I’m watching as the crowd gradually creates a line. Time for me to get up, grab my carry-on and backpack, and maneuver to my place in line. A lady just turned around to sneak a glance at my boarding pass. The guy with the baggy jeans is hiking them back up. The man behind me is sneezing. The mom is embracing her son and telling him goodbye.
“Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding.” We’re all slowly making our way through the line and towards the plane. Three men in front of me are joking and chuckling about seating arrangements. I’m just remaining silent as I enter the plane and scanning the aisles for an open seat. Window is my preference, but I’m starting to become an aisle sitter. I like the options of the aisle seat — always great for quick exits both off the plane and to the “lavatory.”
Anyway, I just ended up in the window seat.
I’m situated now but just got startled by a booming voice coming my way “Hey, sit next to the skinny guy!”
Two burly men quickly make their way to my row, debate about who gets the middle seat, throw their luggage above me, and sit down.
* * *
“Hey buddy, how are you?” The man in the middle seat beamed at me and stuck his hand out.
“Good, good,” I had to reply, a bit unnerved as I shook his calloused hand. I don’t really talk on planes and wasn’t exactly happy that two large men were going to squash me into my window seat for two hours.
“Hey brother,” the thin man on the aisle seat leaned forward, “forgive my language on this flight.” He grinned and winked at his friend.
“Oh, uh, um,” I stammered and stuttered. “I’ll have my headphones in. So you can just ask the rest of the passengers for forgiveness …”
I could only help but think, “Oh, great. This will is going to be wonderful. I’m stuck next to two potty mouths. Good thing this is just a two hour flight. But I hate to be rude.”
“So where you go to school my friend?” The man in the middle asked me.
I didn’t really want to talk, so I just quickly said “It’s a small Christian college. No one’s really heard about it …” He could tell I didn’t really want to talk — so he took it upon himself to talk for the both of us.
And that’s when I found out.
He’s your dad.
Now, I realize I don’t know you at all. But I feel like I need to write this letter because I have to confess. I have to confess because I know you’re a Christian. And I was angry with you. Your dad — well … he seems like a heathen to me. But he sure talks highly of you! Like how you are so involved with the Christian ministries at your school, or how you work at your church, are doing great in school, and making him so proud. I have to say, I’m impressed with what you seem to be doing for the Lord. But something just isn’t right.
I don’t know what to think. Your dad — he just keeps talking to the man beside him about inappropriate things — things I just don’t want to tell you about. I just keep thinking that I wish you could have talked to your dad and really shared the gospel instead of leaving me with this uncomfortable situation. I don’t want to just talk to your dad about brick-laying, college, and the alcohol he’s downing.
I have my headphones in now and am doing my best to drown out the sounds of the plane and watch the sun drop beneath the clouds we’re flying over.
But I can’t help but think: Maybe I’m missing my chance to share the gospel right now. This is the perfect opportunity!
* * *
You know what, now I’m writing this letter because I did miss my chance. We’re stepping off the plane now and I’m walking through the terminal and I’ll be back in Bible College and you’ll be back in Campus Crusade.
To say I’m sorry for not speaking when I felt called to speak to your Dad just isn’t enough. But I am. And I pray for your Dad and hope that one day this missed opportunity will not be so hard to swallow. Because right now all I can do is lose sleep over this chance I missed. I’m so desperate for another chance, another plane ride, another window seat. I’m praying, Melissa, that you will forgive me for my tepidity in sharing a message your father needed so much.
The words of Fanny Crosby keep ringing in my mind every day as I think about your dad:
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
I am certainly weeping now. The words of Jesus in Mark 8:38 haunt me on a daily basis:
If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.
I know God has all things under His control. He is sovereign over all things. But it still hurts. It hurts bad. Yet praise be to God that He is rich in mercy and forgiveness.
I don’t want to miss this chance again. I can’t miss this chance again.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes …” (Romans 1:16).
Copyright 2010 Tim Sweetman. All rights reserved.