Almost home. After a lovely stint with the rental car manager over a pricing issue and sitting on the runway for more than an hour, I had finally arrived in Denver. One more flight, and I was back home to the great state of Oklahoma.
My usual routine is to exchange polite pleasantries with the people sitting next to me on the plane. If the opportunity presents itself, I might even engage in a light conversation over destination, intent of the trip, etc. Not today. I sat back in my undersized economy seat and immediately put in my headphones in order to forget the events of the past five hours.
In order to prevent an unpleasant confrontation with the flight attendant, I politely but begrudgingly took my headphones out as the plane took off. No quicker had my headphones left my ear canal that I heard the phrase next to me, "Hey man!"
At this time, I was aware of an individual next to me, but I couldn't tell you a thing about him or her for that matter. I exchanged greetings and proceeded to look into my bag for a newspaper, magazine or something to pass the time.
"You headed home?" This time I gave the individual enough respect to at least turn my head and look him or her in the eye. I saw a young man, probably in his mid to late-twenties, with a variety of unique face piercings and a black shirt with what I believed to be a rock band on the front.
"Yes, I'm headed home. And you?"
"No, I'm with my girlfriend (pointing a few rows in front of us). We've been out in Cali all week house-sitting for my uncle."
I can't even tell you exactly how I responded, but I can tell you the intent was to end the conversation. After a brief pause, the place where most conversations end, here came the next round of questions. Ahhhhh!
I had sit down next to a talker. This guy had an hour and 20 minutes next to me, and he wanted to utilize it.
We spent the next 30 to 40 minutes in a rather one-sided conversation with this guy telling me everything from the band he's currently in to the issues him and his girlfriend were facing. He finally got around to asking me a question, "So what do you do?"
I seriously thought about lying for a second.
Up to this point, I had honestly been a borderline jerk and had proven my overall uninterest with the conversation.
"Um, I'm a pastor," I said with about as little conviction as you can imagine.
At this point in life, I was fresh out of college and had been a full-time pastor for all of six months. I was asking God all those questions like, "What do you want me to do with my life?"
I wanted to go change the world, and I wanted to do it yesterday. Like most recent college grads, you're ready to conquer the world because you have just spent the past four years learning the secrets of your trade; although never actually experiencing any of it.
Once our plane had landed, I had rounded up my luggage and was on the drive home when I was hit with the reality of the events that took place on the plane. How could I do anything noteworthy for God, if I was unwilling to stop long enough to talk to someone right in front of me?
Not one of my greatest moments. In all my prayers for direction and requests for God to use me to do great things, I had missed it. The easy, obvious, right-in-front-of-me opportunity. On the drive home that day, I had a really honest talk with God.
If you look at the life of Jesus, you realize that he was always leaving the crowds and the masses of people to minister to the one. I had somehow gotten the whole thing backwards. I was ready to try to reach the masses, but I didn't have a heart for the one.
We always want to do these seemingly great things, but Jesus said "if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones he will certainly not lose his reward" (Matthew 10:42).
On the car ride home that day, I had one of those life-changing moments. I decided I would no longer get so focused on the long-term agenda of doing something great that I missed the people who sit by me on the plane, walk by me at work or live across the street. The irony of the situation is this: We define "great" as the quantity of people we reach, while God simply wants us to respond to the opportunity right in front of us, even if it's just one person.
I made a decision that day to view myself as an everyday adventurer who looks for the small and seemingly insignificant opportunities to reach the one.
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