Extra Grace Required at 35,000 Feet

There are just some people I don’t like.  I try to be gracious.  I try to think positive thoughts.  But they just bug me.  Madonna irritates me; so does Vice President Joe Biden.  Bill O’Reilly—are you kidding me?  Ryan Seacrest and Paula Abdul are the reason God made the mute button on my remote.

There are people in my own family that drive me nuts.  Complete strangers can bug me.

When I fly from one city to another I usually put ear buds in and turn my iPod on.  This is suppose to be a signal to those who would sit beside me that I do not want to engage in chit chat for the next 2-3 hours.

One time I was traveling from Phoenix to my home in Seattle and got my usual window seat, put the ear buds in, got my book out and got as comfortable as my 6’4” tall and wide body can get on a plane.  Then a lady sat down beside me and ignored my warning signs—scowl, no eye contact, ear buds, book, etc— and started talking to me.  I had to take my headphone out of one ear  to hear her.  She was nice enough but she was clearly not heeding the markers that I didn’t want to be bothered.

When she engaged the man in the aisle seat in a conversation,  I reloaded my ear with my Ipod and thought, “Just open up your book, turn the music up, never look at her and she will leave you alone.”

It worked for about 30 minutes.  She tapped me on the arm and asked me a question.  “What book are you reading?”  I held the spine up so that she could see that it read Encouraging the Heart by Kouzes and Posner.  “What is that about?” she asked.  I gave her a clipped and terse synopsis of the book and put my headphones back on.

She pulled out a paper she had brought on board.  It was a copy of the latest National Enquirer with headlines like “Hillary Clinton gives birth to Alien Baby” and other bizarre story titles.  She spread the paper wide and leaned towards me that our arms touched.  I had to move even further away.  But the more I moved away from her the more she spread out.

Twenty minutes later she folded her paper up and went to the restroom.  I closed my book and put my head in my hands and sighed.  I was so weary of this person and it was only an hour into my two and half hour flight. When she came back and saw me with my head down, she re-belted and began to rub my shoulders.  “You must be very tense” she said over the whine of the jet engine.  What do you do at this point?  I let her rub for what I assumed was the appropriate time for stranger giving a neck rub on a plane and smiled and said thanks.  I opened up my book again, not reading—just staring at the page.   I can’t describe the bile that came into my soul if not my throat.

About this time the man in the aisle seat pulled a much worn Bible out of his briefcase and began to read.  This caught her eye and she began to ask questions about God, faith and spiritual things.  The older man smiled and answered every one of her questions with grace and aplomb.

She shared with this older man some of her pain and struggles.  He nodded, listened and gently asked if he could pray for her.  She allowed that he could and then took her hand and pressed it between both of his knobby hands and prayed so sweet and low that this lady began to weep.

You would think I would have rejoiced that the old man had distracted her from bothering me.  You would have thought I would have paused and prayed for this woman to hear the Gospel from this kindly man.  But I found a strange thing happening: I began to sense my resentment that had reached a saturation point with the woman start to leach toward the gentle man.

Now I had two people with whom to be frustrated, an irritating National Enquirer reading sinner and a irritating King James Bible reading saint.

It was about this time when I felt a metaphorical thump on the back of my head that the Holy Spirit so often does with me when He wants to get my attention.  That was all I needed; a solid spiritual thump.

This was many years ago, but he memory of the darkness of my heart that day serves to remind me that I am a long ways away from the man God has in mind.  I have to keep surrendering, stay with my training, keep remembering that I am on my way to Christlikeness.

Irritating people need extra grace.  But the most irritating person to the Holy Spirit that day was the guy typing these words right now.  So I pray…

Hide Your face from my sins,
And blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.          Psalms 51:9-12 (NKJV)

Anyone bothering you?

3 thoughts on “Extra Grace Required at 35,000 Feet

  1. I guess I didn’t leave the message correctly before…so I’ll try again. In other words…you may get 2.. 🙂 I enjoyed both of the stories that I read tonight. Both give me hope. Your story makes me think of myself and how my own attitudes aren’t always acceptable to God and Caleb’s story makes me think about good circumstances that come from bad circumstances. I have faced plenty of those and know it’s true but in the present situation I haven’t seen it happen yet. I know it will. Anyway, enjoyed the writings. Have a good week and tell Lynett “hi”.

  2. Thank you, Joe, for again hitting the spiritual nail on the spiritual head. I’m sitting here annoyed at one of my best friends for not picking me up or calling me. I’m going to pray for her instead. Love to all, Katie

  3. Joe,
    I think what you have said is true. Often we look at others through our own eyes, forgetting God’s infinite potential to reach out through us and touch another life at any time HE wants to. Thanks for the reminder. -Justin

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