“You’ve got the last seat, you can go to the gate!” Larry gave me a quick hug. “Pray that I’ll get on the next flight.”
The gate agent waved me through the door; it clanged shut behind me. Blinking back tears, I walked down the passageway to the plane. With only one seat left on the plane from Seattle to Washington, DC, my husband had sent me ahead while he waited five hours for the next flight.
We were beginning a long-awaited trip across the continent to spend time with our daughter and family. A generous friend and airline employee had offered us guest passes for our flights. Although using the passes meant we would be flying standby, we thought, How bad could that be? We would use the 50% savings for more fun with our Baltimore family.
We had made the 5:30 a.m. commuter flight from Portland. But sitting in the Seattle airport, we had watched our names continue to drop to the bottom of the standby list.
Now on the plane, I fought anger and panic. This isn’t how it was supposed to be! The worst part was that Larry and I wouldn’t be able to communicate while I was in the air—I’d have to wait until the end of the day to find out whether he made the next flight.
I pulled out my e-reader and scrolled through my library. The title that caught my eye was Indescribable, by Louie Giglio and Matt Redman.
As I began to read of the wonders of the universe, peace settled over my spirit. The God who created the heavens was my friend and constant companion, and on the screen of my life, this glitch in our travel plans was barely a blip.
My flight was uneventful, and when I turned on my phone when the plane landed, I was relieved to hear Larry’s message, “I got the last seat on the 2:40 flight!”
As a contingency plan, we had booked a hotel room in Washington, DC. I called Rebecca while I waited for the hotel shuttle. After considering options, she decided to drive to DC to keep me company and wait for Larry’s 10 p.m. arrival. She came with hugs and snacks, the perfect antidote for my stressful day. A quick check before leaving to pick up Larry showed that his flight had been delayed almost two hours because “The pilot couldn’t make it, so we had to call in a substitute.”
It was after 11 p.m. when I hugged Larry curbside at Reagan Airport. “We’re too old to deal with this kind of stress,” I laughed.
The day before our flight home, we changed our afternoon reservation to early morning, hoping to have more options. We hugged Rebecca good-bye at 5:00 a.m. and joined the congested Baltimore/DC traffic, enjoying a last conversation with Ben.
This time, we were better prepared emotionally for the frustrations of standby travel. Again, when it came down to the departure, there was just one seat left on the morning flight to Seattle. It was Larry’s turn to go first—he had to be at work the next day. After he left, I changed my reservation to re-route through Los Angeles, where the passenger lists were lighter.
By mid-day, Larry and I were both on the West Coast, stuck in separate airports waiting for our last flights home. We kept in touch frequently, and we watched our names drop to the bottom of the standby lists.
As the afternoon passed and Larry missed seats on several flights to Portland, I called AAA and booked a rental car for him. Eventually I got a seat on a flight to PDX from LAX. By the time I landed in Portland, Larry had driven down from Seattle, been met by our son Josh, and had even managed to unpack his suitcase. He picked me up at the curb, and our ill-fated journey was at an end.
When we added up all the extra costs—hotel in DC, extra fees to re-route, and the cost of car rental, the savings from our standby tickets had evaporated. But we had a good story to tell, and the wonderful visit with Rebecca, Ben, Charlotte and Gideon more than made up for the inconvenience and stress.
Now, looking back on our challenging standby adventure, my thoughts turn to an eternal perspective. How many people are not sure if they have a confirmed reservation for eternity? They spend years of their life waiting and hoping, wondering if they’ll get to the destination they’re believing for.
Their gut-wrenching uncertainty is unnecessary—a reserved seat is assured if they simply choose to trust Christ’s loving sacrifice.
He gave up his seat in heaven temporarily so that we could have a guaranteed place with God. We don’t have to wait and wonder, the ticket has been purchased, our place is secure. That’s truly good news!