Delays: A spirituality for flying…

Posted by on Feb 18, 2024 in Blog | 4 comments

man waiting for flight in airport

I’m writing this blog at the airport. It’s my fourth flight in two weeks and each has been delayed. Apparently I will now be boarding in 6 hours time. None of the delays has been weather related, so my temptation is to go on a rant against everyone’s favourite airline – but I won’t do that. Instead I thought: “Let me put what I so often say to the test. Instead of raging against what I can’t control, let me see if my advice to spot God in the unexpected means anything when my plans don’t go as I’d hoped.”

So what am I saying to myself right now (or what was I saying to myself when you get to read this). I’m asking myself this question, “If all of life is a gift, in what way is this unexpected 6 hours at the airport, a gift?” Some answers spring to mind.

I had been planning to write this blog on the flight. So now that I get to write it before take off – perhaps I’ll watch a movie. True, it will need to be a really good one to compensate (and the entertainment system will have to be working, which it often isn’t), but let me at least spot the silver lining – even if it’s more like stainless steel.

I also have a bit more time to reflect on some of the meetings I have been at. Yesterday I spoke at the “Vision Day” for Baptist World Aid and today I got to be an observer at their Board meeting. It was an amazing privilege. I need to think more about the work they are doing. It’s extraordinary. I expected to be inspired by the stories I heard – but I didn’t expect to be this inspired. So inspired that truth to tell, even if I had known that the flights to and back from the meetings were to be delayed, I would still definitely have come. Ah – I need to hear that. Even though I am grumping away at the delay – I still would have come. It was definitely worth it. Hey, they even gave me a T shirt which I will wear with pride. I rather optimistically selected a medium – but when it was clear that probably wouldn’t hack it, they allowed me to take a large as well (if anyone out there needs a medium, let me know).

I love their positive focus: “We dream of a world where poverty has ended and all people enjoy the fullness of life God intends.” Of course there are different ways of dreaming. I think it was Cardinal LJ Suenens who said: “Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true.” I think this is a group of people who are willing to pay that price – to pray and work for a world without poverty and injustice.

Is that a pipe dream?

I don’t know, but I certainly know that actively leaning in to what God is doing in the world achieves a lot more that leaning away from it. And make no mistake about it, God is at work in the world. I heard about it in the many stories we were told. They weren’t earth shattering, but they did tell of community empowerment and hope.

I especially loved the stories about children finding that they have a voice in the struggle against injustice. Some have been able to use that voice to stop 12 year olds being married off. And then there were the stories of small community projects that have enabled people to take their first steps away from poverty. And there was the encouragement that relatively small investments are producing a disproportionate amount of good.

Yes, I’m glad I have a few hours to waste at the airport to remember those stories, and to offer a quiet prayer for those projects, and to be heartened by the great work God’s people are doing in God’s world. In a world where bad news dominates, there are many stories to refresh and inspire. Thank you Lord for the work of Baptist World Aid.

So what else to notice?

I thought back to my encounter with the service person who I approached to see if I had any other flight options. I don’t. But it was a pleasant encounter. I could see in her eyes that she’d had too many people exploding their frustration onto her. I made a mental note to myself, “Be nice.”

“I’m on the flight to Perth,” I said. “There isn’t anything that can be done, is there?”

Now some would reprimand me for approaching things with such a negative mindset (if you tell them they can’t do anything, of course they’ll agree!) But there was something about the look on her face that helped me remember that she wasn’t the enemy – just another human being trying to earn a living and doing so on a rather unpleasant day. So I kept my approach low key, and I saw the look of relief in her face. “I’m so sorry,” she said, “but there really isn’t. I do wish I could, but unless you want to cancel your flight until tomorrow, there isn’t anything I can do. I am so sorry.”

“Never mind,” I said. “It will give me a chance to get some work done.”

She smiled back. I could see the gratitude in her face. One less fight than she had expected.

It’s worth thinking about that little encounter. Well done me! This time I think I got it right. Can’t say I always do – but this time, well this time, I think it was the right approach. And what was the alternate? To rant and rave and still leave on the same delayed flight… except with everyone feeling horrible. You probably know the old prayer; “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Well, I could carry on for a fair amount longer, but my watch is telling me it is time to stand – and in another 5 hours or so I’m about to start on a 5 hour flight, so I better obey it. Now what should I do after I’ve stood up?

As always, nice chatting…

Photo by Kaique Rocha on Pexels.com

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4 Comments

  1. CommentT *Thank you, Brian, for such an insightful and helpful reflection. You’re so right! The temptation is always to get cranky in such a situation, but what good would that do? I think of the many times during the height of the COVID pandemic that plans were thwarted, meetings cancelled, and family gatherings needing to be postponed. And yet those extra hours that became available actually helped me to catch up on things that I’d been putting off, like home maintenance and writing a new sermon or two.

    Thanks for the reminder to do as the Apostle Paul encouraged us to “Give thanks in every circumstance, because this is the will of God for you”. ( Not that the circumstance is necessarily God’s will but the being thankful in that circumstance is God’s will for me).

    Some of my thwarted plans have so often turned out a better outcome. Thanks gain for reminding me of this.

    • Thanks Peter. In the end the hours rushed away. It was actually a helpful gift of time to catch up on a number of admin things.

  2. Brian. I would be interested to hear about the project where a little be of funding went along way.

    • Hi Chris. Probably best to speak to Baptist World Aid Australia directly about this. The projects they spoke about were just a few of many they are involved in. Their contact details are on their website https://baptistworldaid.org.au/

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