I collapsed at the waiting area of Gate C20, and hoped this flight would finally take off and transport me home. Exhaustion increased exponentially by the minute. My red Athletes in Action carry-on bag (whose contents I long ago gave up trying to organize) felt as though concrete bricks hid inside. Large glass windows protected me from the bleak wintery weather, but its mood seemed written across the faces of forlorn passengers milling about. Most were anxious, a few were ambivalent, and some were down right angry.
In this setting, sharing my row with other displaced individuals, I casually glanced down at my boarding pass. And, for the first time ever, I noticed the fine print. Three simple words—subject to change—leapt from the paper. This benign phrase held bragging rights to my situation.
Let me backup.
January travel plans called for me to join Larry in Indonesia where a rare ministry opportunity awaited us. So, on a bitterly cold morning, I locked our door, and set out for Asia where the thought of warm weather beckoned. I put my key away and mentally reviewed a list: thermostat set, check; mail held at post, check; lights selectively left on, check; passport in hand, check; medication for my ailing ear, check. Ready, set, go!
My scheduled journey went from Cincinnati to Detroit, Detroit to Seoul, Seoul to Indonesia. (Long, extremely looong, but doable.) After two days of grueling travel, I should safely reach my destination, my husband, and my colleagues. It never occurred to me to consider three simple words: subject to change.
Traveling alone with no time to spare, I made the transfer in Detroit. Amidst 350 other passengers, I boarded this monstrosity of an aircraft, settled in to my seat, and pulled out both my book and my knitting. I felt like a bear going into hibernation. After all, this would be my space for nearly 14 hours. Subject to change, never crossed my mind.
But my hibernation abruptly ended.
After take off—somewhere out over the frozen tundra of the Arctic—the captain’s voice interrupted my reverie with his announcement: Ladies and gentlemen, an onboard medical emergency requires us to turn around and head back to Detroit. Indeed, a passenger on board our flight suffered a stroke and required immediate attention. Yikes.
Then, as our plane landed in Detroit and pulled up to the gate, a bizarre set of circumstances launched what became the theme of my sojourn: subject to change.
The pilots and crew had to be replaced, as did the medical items used onboard. A snowstorm on the east coast confounded the attempts to bring in the required fresh crew members. Then, add to the mayhem the unthinkable: local authorities closed Detroit Metro Airport due to wintery icy conditions, and all planes were indefinitely grounded. Amidst the confusion, my flight was cancelled, as was the flight the following day. “Stranded” took on new meaning as details and dilemmas spiraled, seemingly, out of control. Every minuscule aspect of my life rested under the arc: subject to change.
Despite a 13-hour time difference, Larry and I met for prayer over our mobile phones. Calculating the delays, now compounded by distance and layovers, we arrived at the difficult and disappointing conclusion that it was God’s will for us to cancel my participation in the trip. Thus, after being grounded overnight in Detroit, I would not proceed to Asia, but rather would set about the arduous challenge of returning home to Ohio.
So, the following afternoon, after an increasing number of further delays, I sat at Gate C20 and three simple words worked their way into my psyche: subject to change.
A sea of travelers who shared the same reality (subject to change) waited restlessly. Their various reactions became a study for me. Most were anxious, a few were ambivalent, and some were down right angry. Why, individual even announced aloud: “I hate people!” Unfortunately, I made the mistake of getting in front of him in a line.
So, why does subject to change catch us by surprise? My travel saga provided a fresh opportunity to consider the question. For starters, here are three conclusions:
We value control and relish the thought of directing our own destiny.
We forget that our default setting is self, and we rise up when our agenda feels snatched from our fingers.
We deny the reality that “control is a myth,” (Bill Lawrence), so we get blindsided when our plans unravel.
But think about this; in truth, every aspect of our lives is subject to change.
He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
Living With Eternal Intentionality®
How do you respond when your game is rained out, your child gets sick, or your husband calls to tell you he will be late for dinner?
What happens inside of you when God whispers, “Subject to change”?