I keep thinking about my trip here and how it seems like a mini-version of the last couple years. Lets see if I can get anywhere close to explaining what I mean by that.
I got to the airport in Seattle around 5:30AM on Wednesday, leaving plenty of time for my 7:40AM flight to Washington. I was supposed to be flying Seattle to Washington, DC to Johannesburg, arriving at 2:30PM the next day (Thursday). I was then going to spend the night in Jo'burg, flying to Windhoek at noon on Friday. The idea was that I'd be recovering from the red eye flight in Jo'burg and having a normal flight to Windhoek after getting plenty of sleep at the guest house. Great plan, right? Here's what actually happened.
I got on the plane just before 7AM. They loaded early since it was a large and long flight. We sat for what must have been a long time (I wasn't keeping track at this point) before the announcement came that there was a panel on the side of the plane that the flight crew had just noticed was missing. They ordered a new one from Boeing which they anticipated should be installed in time for us to fly by about 9AM. Now, my connection to the Jo'burg flight was going to be 2 hours after I landed so I knew tis was not going to work for me. I immediately grabbed my carry-ons and got off. The line to the service desk was already forming but I got in it. I was about 6 people from the front. I called Rob to get him praying specifically for this problem. Then, I got off the phone because my cell battery (which I refuse to replace, given that we're canceling our plan in the next couple of months) only lasts a few minutes at a time these days.
While I was in line, I remembered how just the day before I had been standing in Rob's folks kitchen with Rob and June, praying for this trip. We prayed for (among other things) the flight to go smoothly, that I'd make all my connections, that the bags and I would arrive safely, etc. Then, I thought about how, lately, Rob and I have been feeling like everything that could go bumpily for us does. I've been wrestling with that idea a bit. There are several schools of thought on trouble in one's life.
➊ It could be that we are under attack because we're trying to do something good. God is allowing this attack with the intent that it will be an opportunity for us to grow in faith. He will make all things work together for our good. This is the cleanest and neatest of all given options.
➋ It could be that we have some sort of undealt-with sin in our lives and we are self-sabotaging somehow, giving the devil a foothold, as it were. If that's the case, I'm still waiting for a "heads up" on what my problem is so I can do something about it.
➌ It could be that God is letting these things happen as way of telling us that we're not supposed to be doing what we're doing. Like, wouldn't it be easier if we are in God's will on the things that we try to do? Wouldn't an all-powerful God be inclined to make it possible for us to do the thing that he wants us to do? Instead, it seems like it isn't just that the normal things of life get in our way. It's like we're magnets for supernatural intervention of some ilk, be it fair or foul. Like, they just noticed a piece missing from the side of the plane? They don't have any spares? The delay is just long enough for me to miss my connecting flight? What's the deal here? Why me?
I decided, while in line, that I was going to believe in option ➊. I told myself that God must be protecting me from some unknown disaster that would have befallen me had I not gotten on a defective plane. I was thankful that the plane didn't leave the ground defective. I thought that maybe there was someone I was supposed to meet by being on different flights. I remembered what some speaker at seminary had said about church building programs; that the conflict resolution opportunities inherent in such mundane but distress-laden efforts are actually the best place for Christ to be seen in our lives to others. I thought that this might be chance for me to be Christ-like in a line-up of angry, stressed out folks... of which I was definitely one. I tried to calm myself down, believing that this would all work out for my good.
I finally got to the front of the line. The guy began to help me but I could tell he was having a rough time, given that I had rare destinations and tight connections. Also, he told a supervisor who walked by while he was working on my ticket change that he was too sick to be there and would be going home right after helping me. That made me a bit nervous about what he was doing but, oh well. He rebooked me for a red eye to London, getting in at 10AM, followed by a red eye to Jo'burg, leaving at 7PM. That would mean 9 hours in London airport. I thought, "Hey, I've never been to Europe; cool!" He also made a note on my baggage that they should be checked through to Windhoek, since none of my stopovers were longer than 12 hours anymore. At least that's what he said he was doing; more on that later.
I got back on the plane and waited for them to fix it. I called Rob and LBT, let them know of the plan change, settled in for the flight. We sat there for several hours as the piece that came in from Boeing didn't fit and they had to "make it fit". Then, I flew to DC. When I arrived, I thought I'd better get in line with customer service, to check and make sure of what I was supposed to be doing again. Also, I had a bad feeling about my bags. While in line, I chatted with several other rerouted people on my flight. One guy had a daughter who is a bush pilot in Windhoek. I got her name so I could look her up sometime. After about 1/2 hour in line, I got to the service desk. We quickly discovered that the bags had not been marked as needing to be rerouted and she took care of that for me. I had another brief "why me?" moment but, as I had gotten the niggling feeling that something was wrong with the bags and had acted on it and had diverted the problem, I couldn't be too grumpy. I wasn't really hungry but knew I should eat something so grabbed a protein-boosted smoothie. It tasted a little off but it was a flavor I hadn't had before so I drank it anyway.
The flight was rough. Whatever was wrong with that smoothie began to kick in after the people around me were asleep; 2 seated on my left and 2 on my right. Yes, I sat in the exact middle of the biggest row on the plane. I began to get gassy cramping but there was really nothing I could do about it. The girls on my right did wake up at one point so I scrambled out quickly, taking what was to be my one shot at the bathroom. I tried sleeping face-down on my table tray since that was the only option available to me. Man; I just can't sleep seated on a plane! I know that I dozed off occasionally because I woke up with drool puddles. But it felt more like they just materialized on my hand, cold and sticky. By the end of the flight, I was totally groggy, had a headache and felt like I was going to throw up. I staggered around the airport, figuring I'd get as far as my next terminal and then figure things out. The South African desk wasn't manned yet so I couldn't check the status of my bags. I went to a Boots and grabbed a Coke, water and some salt and vinegar rice snacks. I briefly entertained the idea of sleeping on the lounge seating but most of it had metal bits sticking up between each seating, probably to deter just that sort of thinking. I began to be seriously concerned that I was going to pass out and considered looking for the medics station. I was nauseous, after all.
By the time, I finished my Coke, I felt not so nauseous and headachy and decided to see if there was a sleeping place in Heathrow. I found a spa on the map and thought that I could maybe get a massage and sleep through it or something. God went one better; they let me have a room to sleep in! So, there I was, in a dark, private room with a solid, softish surface to sleep on, pillow and all. Sam said she'd wake me if I wasn't up by 5PM. I had nothing to worry about and a room that was only going to cost me £15. So, sleep only being slightly delayed by the fact that I had just drank a whole bottle of Coke, I slept from roughly noon to 4PM. I woke once an hour, looked at my watch and went back to sleep until I felt solid enough to get up. The first time I woke up, I momentarily had no idea where I was but figured it out before I freaked out. The second time I woke up, I decided to use the in-room massage chair because I figured that it was my cramped muscles keeping me from sleeping as well as I could have. I didn't feel sick any more at all by this point. I did the massage thing for about 5 minutes, went back to sleep. When I got up at 4PM, I found the shower room and had a lovely shower.
[more to come later.. gotta get cleaned up for breakfast here in real time]
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