Sunday, 4 November 2012


Like most people who travel often, I usually allow myself plenty of time to get to the airport.

I also try to take special precautions when I check in for a full flight, to ensure I don’t lose my seat-and possibly the price of my ticket-if I happen to be late. When there are a lot of people travelling, it can be difficult to get a seat on subsequent flights. Moreover, taking a flight other than the one you originally booked can be both inconvenient and risky-luggage, connecting flights, meeting people, all of these factors become a cause for anxiety. So I do all I can do to prevent problems. However, “all I can do” sometimes isn’t good enough.

On one trip in India I sat next to a passenger who had been given the window seat. When the flight attendant came around with beverages, she poured tea for us. She had to lean over my tray table, as the passenger sitting in the window seat was reluctant to lift his cup for her to pour into it. During the process she spilled some tea on his tray table. Immediately I took my paper napkin and offered to wipe down the tray table, but he refused.

Instead, he began to spill more tea from his cup on the tray, then folded the tray so that the back of the seat in front of him got soaked with tea! He also made sure that the materials in the seat pocket in front of him got wet before the attendant returned with paper napkins. I began to wonder if I would be his next target!

In due course the flight attendant collected the tray and cup, apologizing for the spill. As she walked away I glanced at my seatmate, wondering why in the world he was behaving so strangely.

“I think we’re on time today,” I said, trying to break the ice.

“What’s the use?” he responded.

“Are you going to be late for your next appointment, sir?” I asked politely.

“I was supposed to leave yesterday,” he said with a coarse, angry voice. “But those wretched airline people gave my seat to someone else.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that!” I said with sympathy, and he went on to tell me that because his car had broken down on the way to the airport, he hadn’t arrived in time for check in. Since there were a lot of passengers on the waiting list, his seat had been given away after his name had been announced repeatedly over the public address system- which, of course, he could not hear because he was stranded on the highway! When he finally made it to the airport, his flight was closed and all the passengers had passed through the security area.

“I pleaded for my seat”, he told me in a pathetic tone, “but they said I couldn’t go”. It seems he argued for a long time with the agents at the check-in counter and exchanged quite a few angry words. He was still angry at the airline staff.

“Did you sleep well last night, sir?”, I inquired. He replied, “They promised me a seat on the flight the following day, but I had to pay for a room in a hotel to spend the night”.

“All night, I was thinking of the behavior of the airline staff”, he explained “They were very rude to me. They could have given me my seat”.

I enquired about his occupation and was surprised to learn that he was a qualified surgeon and a member of the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (F.R.C.S). Why would such a man react as he had? After all, flight delays and sudden flight cancellations are not uncommon in India. I wondered how he would respond when something went wrong in the operating theater. It was frightening to think of his holding the surgical knife while behaving as he did in the airplane. Sometimes even highly educated people behave like beasts, especially when they are angry about unpredictable happenings.

I smiled at him and said, “Things that are out of our control are on the increase, aren’t they?” I told him how, when tap water became available in my home village, we all buried our wells and depend entirely on tap water. If something goes wrong with the water works department, including electrical failure, we don’t have water from the tap. In the past, water had been under our direct control. Now, thanks to modern technology, it wasn’t!

“Although I am not in control, my great big, wonderful God is”, I continued. “For instance, I may be about to solve some pressing problems when another heap of problems suddenly come up.” He looked at me and encouraged me to continue. “But my great big, wonderful God is much, much bigger than all my problems put together!” As I talked to the man, he began to share his personal problems in response. I went on to tell him that though we know that our God is sovereign and in full control, we often try to make our problems bigger and our God smaller. This is foolishness, plain and simple. I explained how one can find rest and peace in God’s power and care.

“These concepts will help me in my work,” he responded. He did not have much difficulty in accepting God and the spiritual reality and the methods and procedure based on faith.

The surgeon I met on the plane subjected his new found beliefs to the test of experience. His practice is going wonderfully now, and he reports he is a different person. He does not become so upset over unexpected crises. He has discovered, as we all can discover, that if Christ is living in us, we are being transformed every day.

Is it necessary to get upset and worried? Not at all! God is in control. This is not a mere assumption on our part. Day by day, we experience God’s control on us.

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