The following is something I wrote on November 14, 2006 as I waited for my flight out of SEA/TAC airport back home to Fort Worth.
Airports are such lonely places. I wonder if the folks who design them realize that they feel that way. I mean, nobody is supposed to feel at home in an airport, but at least they could make it a little more comfortable. It’s all stainless steel, antiseptic white, and fluorescent lights that are set in ceilings that seem to go up into oblivion. Then there’s the cafes and magazine shops that scream “hey, come on in and get yourself a cup of joe or a Field and Stream…” all the while they’re ripping your wallet apart at the seams. And sometimes the curt politeness of the airline staff seems like a charade that’s meant to corral your anger, frustration, or fatigue and keep you sedated with movies and classical music just long enough for the drink cart to come around in hopes that you’ll grasp your can of ginger ale and pretzels (too many people freak out about allergies to peanuts) and magically all of your worries will fade away.
Yeah, there’s something so impersonal and businesslike about airports, and it’s all centers around the longing to get somewhere, but having to wait around until your flight leaves. In a lot of ways, I think this reflects what life on earth for a Christian is like. Just a few more minutes of waiting at the gate and then we get to board the plane that’ll take us home.
And in the same way, I think there’s this longing, this gnawing feeling in the back of a Christian’s mind that something isn’t quite right, and that things aren’t what they should be. It’s kinda like when you get halfway to work or the grocery store and you realize you’ve forgotten your wallet. Only your wallet in this case is the innocence that was lost in the Garden of Eden, and this trip back involves lots of painful memories, frustration, and the humility that comes with repentance.
So we sit at our desks or in our beds and we think, we scheme, we plan out how things need to go for the right stuff to fall in line so happiness will finally break through the clouds of fallen frustration, but that’s never the way it goes. Crap happens, things break, plans change, and it rains. Especially in Seattle, which is where I’m at right now.
Anyway, the Bible says that we’re supposed to live like Christ is coming back tomorrow, or in the middle of the night. I like that… it gives me a sense of urgency and purpose with where I’m going… makes me study harder for my seminary classes and be more intentional with my conversations. But in the mean-time, I’ve got papers to write, phone calls to make, and that cup of joe that cost me half my spleen has hastened a trip to the bathroom that I hadn’t planned on.
But God also says that Jesus will return someday, riding on a white horse with an army of angels hot on His heels. He’ll save the day and the whole earth will be judged, some going to heaven, some going to hell. I don’t speak of this lightly, but I do think of it as something that is intangible… incredibly hard for me to understand. And I’ve realized after reading and thinking about the book of Revelation for a long time that my time is much more effectively spent studying the same things i’ve read a thousand times but still haven’t been able to live out. Or praying for my friends and letting them tell me what’s going on in their lives, because in doing so I learn so much more about God (through their eyes) than I ever thought possible.
So I find myself sitting in this airport, hanging out, waiting for my flight home just like everyone else and I catch myself wondering where everyone else is headed. Some are going to Denver, some to Chicago, some to Alaska… but everyone at terminal A8 is going to Dallas, connecting over to Atlanta. I sit, reading and studying my time away trying not to let this dull ache of loneliness seep too deep into my bones. I wait, like creation, with eager expectation for the last boarding call, then the plane door closing, then for my plane to finally break through the clouds into the clear night air as I’m on my way home at long last. Only then will I get to rest my eyes a little while, and then spend the rest of the evening at home with friends, laughing and sharing stories of my trip as well as theirs.
I can’t wait till we get to heaven and we can share our stories with each other by the warm furnace of God’s throne. Then and only then will we be truly Home.
These woods are lovely, dark, and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep
— Robert Frost —
“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
“In an airplane are kings and common men
at the window side by side, their view is now the same.
Some relax and rest their eyes; some sit on the edge
as we all break through the clouds into the light of day…”
— Bethany Dillon —