I am sitting at the airport, eating my meal voucher bagel and hoping none of the Bible professors around me realize that I am the reason our flight was canceled.
They are an easygoing crowd, clad in collared shirts and tweed, chatting about the Trinity while waiting in line, joking with the airline employee rescheduling them. But I wouldn’t put it past them to draw lots (or boarding passes) to determine who is responsible for a flight cancellation on a cloudless spring Sunday. I don’t want them to find out that I am Jonah. (Because unlike your typical Delta airlines crowd, they would actually get that reference.)
Not that I’m running from God. I’m pretty sure he’s okay with me going back home after visiting family. Minneapolis is not, in fact, Tarshish, and I was not told to go to Ninevah.
But have you ever been sure that a particular plot twist is intended entirety to teach you a lesson? That you are the one whose particular character flaw is inconveniencing an entire group of people? That if someone could just threw you out of the South Bend airport, the mysteriously disappeared plane will arrive on the runway. (I am not suggesting they wait and throw me out of the plane in flight. Like, what would God do, have me swallowed by an albatross?)
Background: I had a choice between a 2 pm flight and a 7 am flight. And I chose the earlier one, getting up at 3 am Central time so I would make it to church. And I was pretty darn proud of that. Look at me, rearranging my life around God’s people! I am so spiritual and sacrificial! And even though I don’t drink coffee, I won’t fall asleep during the sermon because I am Just. That. Good. I will take detailed notes without the aid of caffeination and not be cranky at all and find some way to casually mention my deliberate flight plans so people know just how committed I am.
And here I sit, reminded by an unexplained flight delay that A. I am a really prideful person and B. I am not the one in control.
It gives me a flashback to that chapel during my sophomore year of college when they announced all of the mission trip teams so everyone could pray for them. I sat there in anticipation. My team’s picture would flash up on the huge screen, and everyone would know that I was giving up my time to serve orphans and stuff. And they would know that I was so spiritual and sacrificial. My hair even looked good in that team picture, and when does that happen? It was, clearly, an act of God, as a thank you for all the awesome things I was going to accomplish for him over spring break. Which everyone would know about soon, once they got to our slide.
As the other teams appeared on the screen, one by one, I recognized how completely misguided and self-centered in that was. And I prayed, “God, help me to see you instead of myself.”
Then our team’s slide appeared on the screen…with a big black box in place of the picture. We were all completely anonymous. No one knew about me or my sacrifice. No admired me or praised me. No one saw me at all. And that’s just the way it should be.
The tech team never did figure out what happened to our team picture, but I know. A reverse miracle, I call it, one of malfunction instead of healing that put me firmly in my place, as a small extra in the story of what God is doing.
They still don’t know what happened to our plane either. The term they’re using is “mix-up.” Most of the Bible profs coming back from their conference are fine with the wait. “It rains on the just and the unjust,” one says, shrugging.
Yes, yes it does. On the plus side, the storm could have been much worse.
Just ask Jonah’s ship-mates. Sorry, fellow passengers. This self-centered prophet needed to learn a lesson…again.