You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good. Genesis 5:20
On Sunday 3/9 I preached the first sermon in our Lenten series entitled “Giving up Control”. On Monday, I lived that sermon.
We left home and arrived at Philadelphia International Airport in plenty of time for me to make my goodbyes and go through security. Now to be honest, this was my third commercial flight, and I have not flown since before 9/11, so this was pretty new territory for me. I uncharacteristically asked the man in front of me (who had the appearance of a seasoned traveler) about the security screening and he helped me. I proceeded to the correct gate and waited for boarding. So far so good.
As I handed my ticket over to the USAir staff, there was an ominous beep. They stopped me and explained that my flight was oversold and I did not have a guaranteed seat. The woman explained how USAir would take care of me and book me on another flight. She searched and ultimately found a flight to Charlotte, NC, and from there a flight to New Orleans. So here I am, not really fully understanding the situation. I could have lost my cool and yelled, screamed and ranted. But deep down I knew that would do no good. I politely asked how this happened as the flight was booked through a travel agent. She explained again that basically, the flight was oversold. At this point my gut reaction was to say forget this, call Manisha to pick me up and go home. But I decided to give up control. I accepted the flight to Charlotte. And during the two hours of waiting in Philly, I made the call to the Board of Pensions, explaining what happened and asking for them to arrange transport from New Orleans to Loranger when I arrive. Then I (again uncharacteristically) asked the boarding agent at the gate what I do when I arrived at Charlotte (remember, third commercial flight, first time with a stopover).
I boarded the flight and off I was to Charlotte. Upon arrival, again I would have a couple of hours of wait, and so I found a nice place to sit and just hung out. I boarded the second flight and arrived in New Orleans around 8:30 PM (with another hour drive ahead of me to the retreat center). I arrived at the retreat center 6 hours later than scheduled, missing the opening orientation, introductions, dinner and chapel. As I walked into the main area, the entire group was enjoying a time of refreshments. The faculty immediately greeted me, asked if I had food, and offered me a beverage. Truly all I wanted was to go to my room and rest, but again I decided to give up control. I met with many of the faculty and my colleagues. Finally I found my room and went to bed.
So here is the situation. Truly I believed God wanted me at this place. God had something in mind for me and therefore opposing forces kept trying to stop me (hospitalization, stress test, getting bumped from the flight). But I listened to the sermon preached on 3/9 and gave up the control I never really had. I accepted what was happening with grace and dignity. And in doing so, I heard God speak to me this entire week.
Brothers and sisters, sometimes we do need to give up control. Sometimes there are situations that cause us anger or frustration, and we want to fight or give up, but God might have a blessing for us on the other end. And isn’t that the point of Easter? Jesus gave up his control so that we might live. Let’s keep seeking that blessing.