August 23, 2011
After a long, frustrating night through which I came to regret nearly every decision I’ve made over the last five days, the Lord decided to add a dash of beauty to a canvas previously awash in stress and irritation. Last night, upon arrival in Riga, Latvia after a four-hour bus ride, I found out during check-in that skipping one connecting flight to go directly to the next is, let’s say, frowned upon by airBaltic (my regional airline). Being in Klaipeda (on the coast) for a writing retreat, I had decided it would be easier to go directly to Riga and pick up my flight there rather than go back to Vilnius for the earlier leg of that flight. I saved $10 and stayed an extra half-day.
So now in Riga, I was told that, while connecting flights normally can’t be skipped, for some reason I was fine and would be able to continue on to Stockholm. So I waited the three and a half hours for my flight, then prepared to board. When I handed over my boarding pass, the girl at the gate informed me that since I hadn’t used the connecting flight, I wouldn’t be able to fly. Of course, there were no other flights going to Stockholm (or any other means of getting there) that night. With the help of family back home, and a few hours and a several hundred euros later, things worked out, but not before hours of thinking, “Dear God, what have I gotten myself into?”
In one of my favorite songs from the old youth group days, there is a line that goes, “Though my sorrow may last for the night, His joy comes with the morning.” Taken from the Psalms, it came home to heart this morning as we touched down in Stockholm, , gliding through rays of light as the rising sun spilled across Sweden’s hills and forests. As if to make a final resounding statement of His glory, hours later as we passed over Greenland, the captain announced that we should look out the windows. Normally the cloud cover is too thick to see anything, but today of all days, the sky was clear. Through the open window, one could see icebergs that had broken off from land, and further, glaciers winding up onto shore; every swirl of ice, every contour of rock a testament to the majesty of the Creator. How can one missed flight compare to the One who with a word breathed continents into being? Who with a thought molded hills and valleys, raised forests, and scooped out the sea beds? Who with a touch of His finger shaped every living being, each unique, each more complex than science can fully explain? Who formed the heart of man, with all its meditations, sorrows, anxious thoughts, and joyful memories?
As I lay on airport seats in Riga, trying to steal a little sleep between the stress of the evening’s events and my early morning flight, all that had been stirring in my heart for the last few days came together. In those moments of loneliness I realized that as much as I love travel, I need the relationships in my life even more. They say you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Isolated from the outside world, it hit home again just how often I take for granted the people in my life. I’m grateful for the reminder.