Following, not directing

God, having infinite love and joy (among many other attributes), sometimes just pours out both in ways that become quite humorous. A failed attempt to see a friend, a canceled flight, an unsuccessful phone call, and a chance conversation in a hallway I didn’t have a good reason to walk down came together Saturday into something amusingly beautiful.


 

I just wanted to get home.

Saturday morning, I went to the hotel lobby and grabbed a paper, headed into the restaurant for some pancakes and bacon, and settled in for a little relaxation before leaving for the airport around noon.

That was my plan, anyway. A text from Delta informed me there was another.

“DL1111/Apr 11 from ATL is cancelled. We’re rebooking your flight(s) now and will text back with more info…”

Good thing we switched back to smartphones, I thought. I texted Tracy what I knew and told her I’d let her know more as soon as I did. With three hours available, I figured everything would work out in plenty of time.

I’ve been wrong before, too.

I called Delta and sat on hold for over twenty minutes, then hung up to try the travel agent who’d booked my flight. She got right back to me but couldn’t help; she suggested Delta might have more options. I got a little nervous and sat on hold again for nearly an hour. I knew I’d get home eventually but wanted to be with my family, especially because Tracy and I were scheduled to present our ministry the next morning to her home church, which has started supporting us. Not getting home didn’t just mean a little delay, it meant not being part of our introduction there.

I asked for prayer on Facebook and, getting desperate, added another post tagging Delta. Friends offered prayers and tips, and one used his premium flyer status to get me connected with an agent. She was gracious and tried everything, but when the FAA grounds everyone’s planes due to weather, the options dry up quickly. There was simply no way home until Sunday night, so I extended my hotel room another night. Better to stay at a hotel than rush to an airport full of other stranded travelers.

I posted an explanation to Facebook (especially in fairness to Delta) and added a bemused acknowledgement that a particular scripture ­­— Proverbs 16:9, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps” — felt especially relevant.

I also decided that I’d really like to attend church Sunday morning. I had tried unsuccessfully all week to connect with a Denver church pastored by Tracy’s old pastor from the Rochester church where she would present the next morning. I’d met her after Steve had left for another church, but I had met him in 2013 through our mission (he’s on the board) and always enjoyed talking with him.   He was traveling, but I called the church office to request a ride. When I didn’t hear back (it was a Saturday, after all), I figured that hadn’t worked out.

Arriving back to the hotel after lunch, I felt like I should go down the convention hallway instead of straight to my room. There was no reason to; the convention was done and packed up, and no one from it would still be down there. I couldn’t shake the feeling, though, so there I walked, wearing a T-shirt for Family Life, a Christian ministry and radio network back home, but the cause of some confusion at the convention because of two other organizations that use that name. Truth be told, I’d known the shirt would probably confuse people and had almost not packed it, but I just felt like I should.

A stranger walking toward me stopped and asked if the shirt meant that I was there with another group, Cru, that was training college evangelists. He was there for another group’s meeting, but he had been watching for Cru representatives because an email had told him a friend would be there. I explained how I’d been delayed after attending the Evangelical Press Association’s convention and was looking for a church service the next morning; would his group be holding any kind of chapel service that I could attend? No, but he’d be glad to take me to his church with him the next morning.

Which church? You already know. The one led by Tracy’s old pastor, who was back from traveling by the next morning. My new friend James got me to church early enough to see Steve and meet some other members and then drove me to the airport. His two younger sons came along, and we talked about photography, fly fishing, equipment versus talent, life, and following God’s leading. I found out the older boy went to a school in Senegal where I’d almost taught back in 2006 and was friends with a son of some of our missionary friends there.

None of it would’ve happened if I had been preoccupied with my disappointment over a canceled flight or had ignored His leading in packing a foreseeably confusing shirt and taking a seemingly pointless walk.

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