From Sanford to Cincinnati By Way Of South Bend
I had planned a quick, routine trip to Kentucky this past week to check on my parents and to take in a Kentucky Wildcats basketball game with my best buddy. The itinerary was a late Monday afternoon flight to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport and a return flight mid-Wednesday afternoon. The return flight yesterday was incredibly smooth and even arrived early. However, the flight up was one of the most bizarre trips I have ever taken, and I’ve taken a lot.
We had an on-time departure out of Sanford Orlando Airport, and the ride up was uneventful. But when the plane tried to land, I noticed it felt that it suddenly pulled up and began to ascend again rather than continue its approach. About ten minutes later, the flight attendant announced over the cabin intercom that the pilot was concerned about visibility as he tried to land, and decided to abort the landing. Now we were heading to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Huh?
At first, I thought it was a joke, but since flight crews aren’t known for their sense of humor, I quickly thought it was a mistake. Everyone on board was stunned. Grand Rapids, Michigan? Really? That’s quite a leap from Cincinnati, Ohio. Then the flight attendant announced that instead of Grand Rapids, we were being diverted to South Bend, Indiana…making it sound as if somehow that would be better. By this point people are in full panic mode. I’m thinking of my buddy waiting in the cell lot in Northern Kentucky to pick me up while I was headed to South Bend. It felt like I was in a Seinfeld episode.
We landed in South Bend and stayed on the plane for several minutes while airline and TSA people figured out what to do with us. Finally, they told us we could leave the plane (a bad sign, by the way) and wait in the terminal until further notice. They spoke of food being available in the terminal which sounded good since most of us had not eaten dinner. But when we de-planed, the ONLY restaurant in the terminal was closed…at 8PM. We did get to see many inspiring pictures and statements from Notre Dame University, so at least we had that going for us, but no food was to be found. Finally, the flight attendants wheeled the beverage cart off the plane with the unmerited pride of islanders carrying a pig from the barbeque pit, and benevolently handed out whatever they had until it was gone–with the announcement that families with children and those with medical issues should pick first. I met neither qualification, so when it came my turn there was no food (I mean not even a package of stale pretzels), and a few cans of Seltzer Water left. I hate Seltzer Water. The only consolation was the College Football National Championship game was on a TV to help distract me from my hunger and pass the time for me and some very bitter Ohio State fans. (I have learned though, that Ohio State fans are always bitter about something.)
Around 11PM, they announced over the terminal intercom that a final decision on the fate of Allegiant Flight 1301 from Sanford to Cincinnati by way of South Bend had been made. The brilliant “powers that be” determined that we should be transported by bus to the Cincinnati airport. I’m not making any of this up. I wish I were.
For those of you who may be geography-impaired, South Bend is in Northwest INDIANA; the Cincinnati/Northern KY airport is 403 miles away. That’s over a four-hour bus ride, which is twice as long as a flight from Sanford to Cincinnati, which means we could have flown up and back quicker. Suddenly, the bizarro Seinfeld episode was turning into a not-so-funny version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
For the rest of us, who were not fortunate enough to have rented a car during this excruciatingly long decision-making interlude about our fate, we boarded a bus at 12:45AM on a cold and snowy South Bend night, and headed east and south. At 5AM we arrived at the airport we should have landed at 11 hours earlier. My buddy, who had come to pick me up, was fast asleep in his warm bed on the west side of Cincinnati, so I Ubered to his house, 45 minutes away, with a nice guy named Dennis in an older model Mercury Grand Marquis. At least Dennis was a UK fan, and that always counts for something in my book.
It was without a doubt, the strangest and longest trip back to my old Kentucky home that I have ever experienced. It was also a textbook case in poor decision making, lack of communication, and general leadership failure. No one knew what to do and no one was talking, neither of which is good when you have people depending on you.
I DID get to see my parents. I DID get to spend some time with my best buddy, and I DID get to see Kentucky beat Texas A&M in Rupp Arena. But boy, what an unexpected and crazy journey to get there!
Sounds a lot like life, doesn’t it? Our plans don’t always come off the way we envisioned. Our methods are forced to change, often unexpectantly and quickly. Our expectations have to be adjusted and our perspective re-oriented. But in the end, even when seemingly there is no end in sight, we arrive at our destination and reach our goal, and it never felt so good. We are not the same as when we started our trip. We are travel-weary and road-tested, but we have learned something we wouldn’t have known otherwise about ourselves, others and the faithfulness of God.
It’s almost like it’s a growth spurt–an unanticipated, didn’t-see-that-coming, wouldn’t-have-chosen-that kind of growth spurt. The kind God must surely favor because He takes so many people on them.
Growth in faith is not a linear, 1-2-3, A-B-C, always up-and-to-the-right process. It is a twisting, windy road over rough terrain that contains many surprises and, at the same time, some common characteristics. As 2018 gets into full swing, we are learning what some of those recurring faith-growing catalysts look like. This weekend, we will focus on Practical Teaching as a growth factor, and learn how to navigate the always tricky “knowing/doing gap.”
Believe me when I say, I REALLY love this Journey with you, and have never been so happy to be home in Apopka with my wife, and am looking forward to being with my wonderful church family this weekend.