I buckle myself in for one more flight on this six-flight weekend, a trip that shoots me half way across the country and back. I cherish my work, but the travel can be numbing.
How can I make this flight interesting, I wonder, as passengers heft and maneuver their bags into the already crowded overhead bins.
A couple of years ago I would have made at least initial pleasant conversation with my seat mates. Or, at least, I would have been open to their greetings.
But now even a simple acknowledgment of the other as other, as someone I will share air space with for the next two and a half hours, anything beyond a nod, seems too much for me.
How can I make this flight interesting, I wonder, now as the flight attendants snap shut every overhead bin, as they check every seat belt, every seat back, every tray, electronic items powered down and stowed.
How can I make this flight interesting, I ask myself again, remembering that I alone am responsible for my own boredom. Just as I alone can choose to be engaged.
More accurately, I remind myself, thinking of the Easter season, I can choose to let the risen Lord be engaged through my presence, on this flight, for the good of these fellow passengers. Now that’s a big thought.
The truth is, the risen Lord invites me to be present to these others, whom I will probably never encounter again in this lifetime.
I look out the window and see that we are pulling away from the gate, and turning to queue up for takeoff. I notice, now, the rapid acceleration, and feel the G-force pull me back as we soar quickly up off the runway. I watch the land below disappear beneath a blanket of cloud.
Soon the flight attendants spring into action, working the aisle with their carts.
And suddenly, catching me by surprise, I get what really is happening.
In a flash, and with utter clarity, I understand that the risen Lord is walking the aisle. He moves forward from the rear of the plane, with arms extended toward this one, toward that one. Beholding, blessing, cherishing each one. Ambushing each passenger, as it were, with pure divine love. Encouraging each one in the untold particulars of their journey.
Why am I surprised to discover him here, as we approach thirty thousand feet, walking this aisle, blessing each of us as, though there were only one of us?
Like Thomas Merton at his epiphany at Fourth and Walnut in downtown Louisville, I too suddenly realize that I love all these people. That they are mine, and I am theirs. That we cannot be separate.
I love them because they are beloved of God. Because at the core of my being I know that I must love whom Jesus loves, and bless whom Jesus blesses.
A wave of joyful astonishment washes over me. How could I have felt indifferent, bored, carefully protecting my space from the inconvenience of the small and kindly conversation of so-called strangers?
Now at thirty thousand feet I realize that I am on hallowed ground. The risen Lord walks here, beholding, blessing, cherishing each one.
On this Sunday morning he shows me how to love. It is very simple. He holds space enough in his heart for each one whom he encounters. He shows me how it is done.
The only painful part in this little apprenticeship is this almost unnoticed moment, an instant, really, a wisp of time almost too small to measure, when my heart itself becomes unhinged from its moorings, set free to roam and behold and bless as the risen Lord blesses.
It is one thing to say that the Lord is risen. That’s the easy part.
At thirty thousand feet, my work today is to live as though this were true.
Mary Sharon Moore writes and speaks nationwide on the nature of God’s calling.