Being out of control used to scare me. It just didn't feel right. I would stress and worry and fret. But after enough scary crises, I guess I've gotten used to the feeling and now it doesn't bother me as much. After all, who among us, by worrying, could add even a single hour to her life? It accomplishes nothing, because it doesn't help us gain any control of a stressful situation. If anything, it is counter-productive.
I'm almost to the point of actually relaxing MORE in stressful situations, simply because I have to acknowledge that I am not in control, but there is One who is, and He is good.
My husband flew to Boston on Wednesday for business. He is a featured guest speaker at The Woodworking Show in nearby West Springfield, Massachusetts this weekend. He decided to fly a day earlier than necessary, just to be on "the safe side," whichever side that is. The kids and I drove him three and a half hours over beautifully snowy mountain passes to Spokane to catch his flight, as it would be much cheaper than flying out of our own airport in Missoula. We said our good-byes at the security checkpoint, then went on to wander around Spokane and the historic sites on the way home while he made his way across the country.
We didn't know until later that evening that his flight was quite late leaving Spokane, which made for an extremely tight connection in Minneapolis. He texted us as we were buying snacks in Wallace, ID, that we needed to pray he would get on his plane. We did. He did. So far, so good.
The next time we spoke, Wednesday night, he had landed safely in Boston, but his luggage hadn't made the tight connection. We weren't at all surprised or concerned; understanding that there was no way his bags could have been removed from one plane and transferred to the next in the ten minutes it had taken him to sprint through the airport to his already empty gate. He had literally made visual contact with the pilot through the windshield of the cockpit and jumped up and down waving his boarding pass to make it on the flight. They actually opened the outside doors, which had already been shut, to check his paperwork and let him on. Of course his luggage didn't make it. He would go to his hotel, get a good night's sleep, and pick it up in the morning.
Thursday morning came and his luggage hadn't arrived yet. He didn't really need it until that night, just in time to get to his hotel near the venue and be ready to set up Friday morning for the show which started at noon, so we still didn't worry.
Instead of stressing out, Andy went sightseeing. He called us from Paul Revere's house. He went to the site of the Boston Tea Party, the State House and an oyster house restaurant that dates back to the time of the Revolution. He visited the Old North Church, where two lanterns were hung to indicate that the British were coming by sea. My kids and I, studying history at home from books, turned a not-so-flattering shade of envy-green.
He called again in the late afternoon from the airport. The luggage still had not arrived. At this point, the airline employees couldn't even find the luggage. The last time it had been scanned was in Minneapolis. From there, it seemed to have vanished. An agent here called an agent there, who called a supervisor here to check with another department there. There was no sign of the huge suitcase and giant duffel bag which contained everything Andy needed to teach his seminars on sculptural woodworking. These were not necessarily things that could be replaced, even if the airlines were feeling generous and sent him out to buy more tools. Among the items missing were samples of joints that Andy had painstakingly fashioned in such a way that he could disassemble and reassemble them for demonstration purposes, as well as completed items that Andy had sculpted to show the results of his techniques. These are not things that can be picked up at Home Depot.
What if they didn't arrive? Did he dare leave the airport? His hotel room was paid for and waiting for him in West Springfield, an hour and a half away. But he couldn't leave town without the luggage. Should he find a place in Boston for the night, or just curl up on a couch at the airport so he could bug the airline employees every hour or so? These were the questions we discussed on the phone. There was nothing that could be done but admit we were out of control and summon the troops to pray. We did. They did.
I spent the evening working on a project with a friend at her house and decided to call my husband again at midnight his time, thinking he must still be at the airport. Instead, I found him at a hotel. The airline had assured him they would keep trying and got him a room nearby for the night. There was still no word. The bags had still not even been located in the system--anywhere. The show would begin in a matter of hours, in another city. I reminded my dear husband that we were completely out of control and it didn't make any sense to lose sleep over it. They would find the bags or they wouldn't. He would teach his seminars or he wouldn't. He would get paid or he wouldn't. There was just no way to tell at midnight and he might as well try to get some sleep so his thinking would be somewhat clear in the morning. We said goodnight.
When I hung up, my friend asked if I was worried. I realized, surprising even myself, that I wasn't. I was out of control. What good would it do to worry? I joked to her that I used to try worrying as a way to handle stressful situations like this, but that I never could do it gracefully, so I had given it up. We laughed and then got down to the business of praying.
I left her house soon after and drove home. My kids were in bed, but still awake, and the fire in the wood stove needed tending, so I started wrapping up the evening's loose ends. While I was in the basement stoking the fire, my son came running down the stairs with my cell phone in hand. "It's Dad! They found his luggage!"
We said a prayer of thanksgiving. The show would go on. I was out of control. Andy was out of control. The throngs of people praying for this situation from around the country and around the world were out of control. Even the airline employees in several different cities were out of control. They still didn't know where the luggage was until it just mysteriously showed up in Boston.
But there was One who never lost control for a second. And He is good.
It reminds me of another story, which I will relay just briefly. I have a friend here in Montana who told me about the night she was in a terrible car accident with her kids in the car with her. I can't recall if she hit ice on the road, or if she had to swerve to avoid a deer, or just exactly what happened, but she suddenly realized she was going to go off the highway and into the ditch, a sizable drop. She threw out a quick prayer and then did the craziest thing; she intentionally let go of the steering wheel and closed her eyes. Incredulous, I asked her why in the world she would do that. She shrugged and continued chomping her gum nonchalantly, "I was out of control. It was out of my hands, so I just let go and tried to relax." She went on to explain that severely drunk drivers so often survive car accidents because they are not tensed up at the moment of impact, so she figured she should try the same. She and her children did survive, after their van flipped and rolled and landed upside down. They walked away with minor injuries.
Out of control. Might as well let go and try to relax. That's the mindset I wish to continually seek.