A Lesson on a “Trip From Hades”

Hi blogging friends,

Shelley and I and ten friends just got back from a relaxing vacation in Puerto Rico. We were originally scheduled to work with Providence Ministries in Haiti during this time, but the earthquake changed all that because all commercial flights in and out of Haiti were canceled. While the vacation was wonderful, the trip down there was nothing short of a nightmare for Shelley and I. We were detained for a long while by the airport’s security because (we eventually found out) a lotion Shelley used activated their screening machine. (Wouldn’t it be nice if products warned consumers that they contain chemicals that might not pass airport security?) Traces of this substance could be found on several things Shelley had apparently touched, so the security personnel had to call in two different supervisors to do their own testing before they finally released us — just about the time the door to our flight closed.

After running like maniacs through the terminal we arrived at our gate, gasping for air, one minute before the plane was scheduled to depart. I told the gate attendant we were detained by security and asked her to please let us on our flight. Without looking up she curtly replied, “Your flight left long time ago” (her English was a little broken). Pointing to the plane located just yards outside the window behind her, I said, “Ma’am, the plane is right there and it isn’t scheduled to leave for another minute,” Again without looking up, she said, “The door is closed.” “Can you please open it?” I asked politely, explaining that we have to make a connecting flight in Atlanta and that our friends have all our traveling information. Trying to appeal to her compassion, I explained that Shelley and I would be completely lost if we’re not traveling with our friends. (This was the absolute truth. Our friends had made all the arrangements for this trip and Shelley and I didn’t even know our final destination, other than that it was some remote region of Puerto Rico.)

My appeal failed. This gate attendant replied, “Can’t open door!” I told her I’d been on lots of flights where they’ve reopened doors for people who had been detained by security. To this, still refusing to make eye-contact, she replied; ” I don’t know what your problem is. All your friends were here in plenty of time!” I was so taken back by this callous reply I simply said, “What?” She repeated herself, word for word, but with more animosity. Catching my breath, I reminded her that we came with our friends and were at the airport in plenty of time, but we were detained by security. Inexplicably waving one hand in the air while continuing to stare at her computer, she loudly declared (and I quote); “All your friends are on board but you’re too late!”

This attendant was not only blaming us; she was mocking us! I was flabbergasted. Still not making eye-contact, she handed me tickets to the next available flight to Atlanta.

This was bad, but things got worse. This lady ended up being the gate attendant on our re-booked flight. Wonderful. At some point I noticed she had seated Shelley and I far apart from each other, so I nicely asked her if there was any possible way we could sit together. Staring at her computer, she simply said, “No. Full flight.” I then inquired if perhaps there was an exit or left aisle seat available since my right knee gets sore when crunched for long periods of time. Her response was the same. “No. Full flight.”

About three minutes later a man approached her, told her he was on the Atlanta flight and wondered if he could change his seat to an exit row seat “to stretch out a bit.” She told him there was and issued him a new boarding pass!!

Un-be-liev-able!!!

I thought about confronting her lie, but then decided there was no point.

At this point Shelley and I had an important choice to make. We could either despise this woman and carry our anger with us, or we could do what Jesus commands his followers to do: “Love your enemies, bless those who persecute you, pray for those who mistreat you, do good to those who despise you.” We chose the latter and prayed blessings on this woman’s life.

As I often do when grieved by a person, I imagined a “prequel” that would possibly explain this woman’s hostile behavior toward us. Maybe I reminded her of a man who abused her as a child. Perhaps her husband left her the night before. Who knows? But something obviously happened to this lady to make her so contentious. I find imagining a prequel helps evoke compassion rather than judgment in me towards people who are hostile to me or others.

Had Shelley and I not quickly forgiven this woman, we would have “let the sun go down on [our] anger” (Eph. 4:26) and it could have, to some degree, polluted our disposition throughout our vacation. Having chosen to instead let go of our anger and bless her, however, we were soon able to laugh at the whole experience. Not only this, but as always happens, letting go of anger gave us perspective. It soon struck us as completely ridiculous that we would stay upset over inconveniences to our vacation plans in Puerto Rico, when we were originally supposed to be going to Haiti. How many people in Haiti — or in most parts of the world for that matter — would love to have our vacation woes?

As it turned out, our failure to board our original flight set in motion a chain of events that turned our trip into the “trip from Hades.” It was insane! For example, soon after boarding our re-booked flight to Atlanta we were informed there was an engine failure. We ended up being delayed another 90 minutes. Once in Atlanta we had to reroute our trip through Fort Lauderdale and then buy brand new tickets on a different airline to get into Puerto Rico. The flight out of Fort Lauderdale ended up being delayed twice, for a total of 5 hours, so we didn’t leave till 4:00 AM. In all, a journey that would have taken a total of 10 hours took more than 24. Plus I lost my phone at one point and got locked out of our secured terminal looking for it since I inadvertently invalidated my boarding pass by removing what I thought was a stub (and, by the way, this was actually a re-issued boarding pass since I had earlier lost my previous one). And so on and so on.

Had we been carrying around a grudge toward the rude gate attendant who caused all this, we would have been perfectly miserable. As it was, our trip from Hades became a comical amusement. We finally arrived at our destination very tired, but smiling.

The moral of the story is that it’s so important to refuse to hold onto anger toward anyone for any reason. Instead, live in love as Christ loved you and gave himself for you (Eph. 5:1-2).

Peace

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