Monthly Archives: July 2013

Grace in a pressure can

I have a really hard time with entitled people.

C.S. Lewis wrote about Pride/Conceit – saying “There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are  more unconscious of in ourselves.  And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.”

Maybe I have a new – old problem.  Maybe.

On my flight home from DC yesterday I really saw a wide range of humanity.  There were all kinds of people, very interesting.  I had a lovely conversation with the lesbian couple that I sat next to and generally I don’t talk to anyone on airplanes – I’m a real headphones on, eyes closed, don’t bug me kinda guy.  They were just amusing, clever and outgoing people.

Our flight was late due to thunderstorms and so people were tired, hot, and a little frustrated.  The air was rough and every seat full. There were 3 or so small children on our long flight continuously crying – parents feverishly walking up and down the aisles when the seat-belt light wasn’t on, just hoping nobody would look at them (man I have so been there).  Then there was this one guy…

This one guy. I still can’t figure out exactly what his deal was… I had plenty of time on the airplane to really try to think through his motivations and understand how much pain he must have been in to act the way he acted. This guy came as close as anybody can come that I’ve ever seen to getting arrested when he steps off the plane. He wanted a different seat, on a full flight, on a Frontier flight where there are no ‘better seats’ and everyone pays about the same amount. He stood in the aisle and demanded it from a flight attended and easily stole 45 minutes of her time – refusing to sit down even when the seat-belt lights were on and arguing with her about how he needed a different seat. I really don’t know what was wrong with him. I think that people can’t act like that if they’re being rational and so the only explanations for irrational behavior I can come up with are substance abuse, pain, and mental disease.

The guy wasn’t really the “show” though. He was just a part of the show. The thing that I found MOST impressive – the show – was the flight attendant and how she handled him. He was so… unmanageable. I wasn’t in a ‘love everyone’ good christian mode… I was glaring hard at him from behind his head just waiting for my chance to tackle him.  I honestly hoped he would turn his eyes and see me. I wanted a piece of his face and I was going to jump up and get it first the moment he assaulted the flight attendant.  I was so offended by his attitude that I couldn’t see his humanity until quite some time after it all settled down.  The fight I imagined never happened, because of how she so impressively handled him.

She was Grace in a pressure can – both literally and figuratively.  She had so much patience for this guy.  She just stood there and endured his ranting and waited for a chance to calmly, warmly, and lovingly explain the truth of the situation to him over and over.  I watched as she appealed to his humanity and his rationality with her eyes, smile and genuine temperament.  I listened as she patiently explained over and over that there wasn’t anything she or anyone on the flight could do to help him.  I fully expected her to make up some kind of lie to pacify him like… promise him a free ticket when he calls customer service after the flight or something.  She didn’t.  She stuck to the truth, she explained that he has a right to choose whether he wants to fly on an airplane or not but that when you make that choice, you have to stick to the rules.

I saw a little piece of God yesterday in this woman whose name I didn’t even manage to get.  About an hour after the event I managed to steal her ear for just a moment while she walked by my row.  I said to her “You are amazing!!”.  She smiled and said “I just told him the truth.  That’s all I can do.”  I died a little.  I left that encounter embarrassed about who I am and who I am not.

Dear God – as me and my family continue to endure trials of your difficult people – of which I certainly am one – between blessings and joy – please oh God teach me more about how to share “Truth in Love” and not compromise anything along the way.

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Mustang Love

I met tonight with a student of mine from our previous church.  I slipped him in at the last minute between my guy’s small group and bed time with my family.  I’ve managed to still maintain relationships with a select couple of amazing young men despite my neglect of those relationships.  God is good and he gives me purpose right when I need it most.

The student’s name isn’t Mike, but tonight we’ll call him Big Chill Mike.

When BC Mike rolled-up in his older v8 Mustang, I could immediately hear from within my house that it sounded different – he’s added a lot to it.  I haven’t seen him in quite a few months.  Mike came in and we sat down and talked about the complete disaster that has become his life over the last 30 days.  Mike’s never had a settled home life, but this situation is really messed-up… this isn’t Mike’s blog so we’ll skip on the details.  This blog is about me.  I tried to help BC Mike as much as I could – mostly listening – offering suggestions and ideas where it seemed reasonable.  Some situations just don’t have a good answer, you know?

Towards the end of my conversation with Mike he suggested to me what I had been hoping, “Hey, let’s go for a ride!”.

I eagerly accepted – knowing that I was probably in for a ‘show’.  Mike is one of the most chill young men I know – amazingly emotionally wise and level-headed… but he’s also a 100% full testosterone, muscular, attractive, natural athlete.  I knew he’d want to show-off his car and his driving skills to me but I wasn’t sure it would be quite this intense.

As we hit the road and I grabbed the roof of the car with my hand out the open window – we immediately slammed into speed before my heart could catch-up with my eyes.  I was enjoying the ride… a little scared, but knowing that my young pilot was capable and knowing that my life is ultimately in God’s hands.  I could have asked him to slow down or turn around at that point, but I didn’t.  When Mike turned onto the interstate highway I began to wonder if I should have.  As we flew down the interstate exceeding speeds that I will not put into writing, taking hard turns and changing lanes…. well at that moment I didn’t realize anything other than a pure and rich combination of joy, fear, anxiety, elation, and the sweaty hard grip of my hand on that roof/door-frame.  I was completely out of control, in a situation that could easily cause me instant death, and I was somehow mostly ok with trusting an emotionally troubled 17-year-old with my life.  As my multiple auto crash memories filled my frontal lobes and eventually overcame my sensory overload – I did eventually ask him to slow down, but not after quite a lengthily rush.  I think he was waiting for me to beg for it.

When I returned home and settled-down for yet another difficult urgent conversation with our relator about our difficult home buying process, It was then that I realized that the ride had been a metaphor as well as an experience.

My family’s life right now is not unlike that ride in the Mustang.  Our lives are moving through a hundred juggling balls – all of them flying at light speed.  Things are coming at us and going past us so quickly, the turns are so hard, the highs so high, and the lows (particularly quite recently for me) … so low.  Our life isn’t being driven by me, as badly as I try to make it…. and frankly, just like the Mustang, my sloppy nerd reflexes couldn’t handle it at this speed anyway.  I’d wreck for sure.

Through a series of circumstances that are entirely out of our control – our family is facing:

*  Home buying, packing, purging and moving in a very compressed schedule with difficult sellers and a highly imperfect process (I know this is a blessing, but we definitely didn’t ask for it this way… it’s scary… and we’re very unsure and have no resources to do it correctly).

* Parental rights termination (hopefully very soon) and adoption process beginning for the wonderfully sweet and broken Foster baby that we’ve had over a year now.

* Mourning the temporary and possibly permanent involuntary loss of a very significant relationship to our entire family.

* A multi-month ongoing battle for the life and livelihood of my mother-in-law.

* and more…

and all of it is happening, right now, in warp speed, without a breath of air, without a seat for rest, without a drink of fresh water.  So who’s driving?

For the last few weeks we’ve received – not a small – but an intensely growing significant number of LARGE blessings right exactly when we seem to need them most.

It’s like that perplexing Grace puzzle I’ve written about before – it’s clearly meant to get my attention about who’s really driving and just how much He loves me… except ugh… this is scary… it’s uncomfortable… it’s exciting… it’s filled with anxiety… it hurts… and God won’t you please just tell me where the road leads and if we even make it?!

So it’s like the ride with my young friend – fear, exhilaration, anxiety, and intense floods of every emotion – only God doesn’t listen when you ask him to slow down a little.  He keeps going.

So many people have done so much for us already.  Thank you – all of you who know who you are.  Most of all – Thank you God again for loving me when I clearly don’t deserve it – truly in spite of who I am.  I don’t comprehend your brand of Love God, but I believe that’s the point of it.

I realize this is possibly the most grammatically poor and disorganized post I’ve ever written here.  This is where I am right now and where my brain is.  God wants me here and I trust Him.  Sleep deprived, worried, sweaty palmed and holding on with all my life for the next big thing.