A Rowboat Without Oars

July 10, 2007

On a recent trip, our plane landed 45 minutes late and then proceeded to taxi at glacial speeds to the gate. Suddenly, a flight attendant made an announcement: “In a moment you may notice vehicles with flashing lights on either side of the plane. Please don’t be alarmed. The airline is making a training video and we’re just getting some shots of our emergency crews at work.” A few minutes later, I detected the smell of overheated plastic in the cabin, and we passed between fire trucks that sprayed something on the top of the jet. A number of questions raced through my mind. Why would the airline make a late flight even later by featuring it in a video? And that burning smell—if that’s not real, aren’t they carrying cinema verite a little too far? Strangely, the plane continued to the gate without further comment or explanation from the crew.   

Welcome to the world of modern air travel—just another mysterious experience in a growing list of flying adventures. Like the flight cancellation in February that should have made us ten hours late except for a last minute opening on standby on another airline.  Or the two hour wait on the runway in June without air conditioning followed by a return to the gate and deplaning. On that trip, I was just in time for a new flight that enabled me to walk straight into a scheduled rehearsal at my destination. Or the blizzard in Minnesota that grounded all flights to Grand Rapids, our final destination. We rented a car and then waited at the luggage carousel as instructed for three hours to pick up our props and costumes, only to discover they had been sent on a bus to Duluth by mistake.

Add to these uncertainties some additional questions: Will there be mini-pretzels for lunch again, or will we get a more substantial meal of cheese crackers? Will the TSA inspectors confiscate my key chain again as a dangerous tool? Will our luggage end up with more frequent flyer miles than we have? 

I’ve developed a mental image that helps calm me during these journeys. As soon as I arrive at the airport, I imagine I’m stepping into a rowboat with no oars at the edge of a river. The boat drifts into the current and I drift with it. The boat will arrive downstream when the river carries it there, and there’s really nothing I can do to control it or move it faster. It’s not such a bad metaphor for many areas of life where faith is required. Plan, prepare, pray—and then go with the flow.

Right now our bookings are thin for the first time in recent memory, and donations are lower than usual. We were turned down for our most recent grant proposal and have yet to find a source for another. The plans for several summer events were cancelled due to schedule conflicts and low registrations. In the midst of these new uncertainties, we watch and wait to see where the flowing of the Spirit will carry us. And trust that—riding in the back—there is Someone with the power to calm all storms.