If you are one of those travelers who prefer to be left alone during the mandatory waiting time before boarding your plane I may owe you an apology. You see, I am one of those annoying people who talks to strangers in airports. If you find yourself in a seat across from me in the boarding area or strapped into the seat beside me on the plane I am probably going to start up a conversation with you.
I promise I won’t interrupt you if you are engrossed with your Kindle or plugged into your Mac or your iPad. But if you are simply sitting alone and staring into space, in my mind, you are fair game. That is especially true if we are sitting side by side on the plane. For me, there is nothing more awkward than wrestling for the armrest with someone I have barely acknowledged beyond a half-smile in response to their muffled, “Excuse me,” as they shuffle by to the window seat. (My long-legged husband always sits on the aisle so I am forever destined to sit in the middle.)
Recently we were traveling internationally which requires you to be in the airport at least two hours before take-off. Surprisingly we got through security very quickly so when we reached our gate there was still a very long wait ahead of us. A stylishly dressed young man walked into the boarding area where we were seated and took the open chair across from us. He carried two bags, but no electronics. I waited a minute or two before striking up a conversation.
You can learn a lot about people in an airport if you are a friendly listener. The anonymity of the experience seems to give people license to talk. The chances of ever seeing each other again are slim so why not socially engage for an hour? I quickly learned that Joe was a twenty-nine year old automotive designer, originally from Maine who now lived in North Carolina. He had met his brother and parents for a weeklong vacation and was headed home to his dog and an important presentation at work.
I told him about my life, too and little by little we got to know each other as well as two people can within an hour and a half time span in an airport terminal. You might wonder why I am even writing about this young man who occupied my attention for such a short time.The real reason is this:
I feel as if I missed an opportunity to introduce him to Jesus.
I casually told him about my walk with the Lord as if it were just another detail in my life instead of it being the most important, defining element that it is. He told me that he had been raised Catholic, but no longer attended Mass because there were too many rules. I told him that it wasn’t really about rules, that it was all about love. But I didn’t name the Name. I don’t even know why. I just kept waiting for the right time and then the time was over and we were being called to board. And now I cannot quit thinking about that missed opportunity to share the Gospel.
My husband thinks I am being too critical of myself. He reminds me that I showed Jesus’ love through example. That I listened to a young man who needed to talk about some of the hard parts of his life. That I gave him encouragement. Somehow that still doesn’t seem like enough.
So I just keep praying for him. I pray that God will call to his heart and open his eyes. I pray that someday soon another person will enter his life and tell him specifically about Jesus. And I pray that the next time I find myself next to someone who doesn’t know the living Savior that I will not get lost in generalities and miss another opportunity to name the precious Name of Jesus Christ.
Great is the Lord in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations. Let them praise your great and awesome name—he is holy. Psalm 99:2-3