I know Easter is the great day of redemption–death being defeated and all as Christ is raised from the dead. But, it’s still “The Fifty Days of Easter” and Monday I experienced some redemption as well. And I thought I’d share it.
I was ready to write my Monday off.
I had been planning for it to be a long, and potentially grueling day. I was going to drive on up to Anchorage (2.5 hours), arrive early at the airport (2 hours), get on a standby flight to Dutch Harbor, Alaska (3 hours), and enjoy the company of friends in Unalaska, on “The Rock.” I had been wanting to get to Dutch Harbor (and the town of Unalaska) for some time–to see a very different setting in Alaska, to walk around some, and to see my friends before they head back to the mainland. That was the plan.
I love going on trips, but I’m not necessarily a huge fan of the whole traveling thing. There’s the waiting around in airports. There’s the sitting. There’s the stress of flying and dealing with airline seats and airline foods and airline passengers. But there’s always a destination in mind. And, Monday, my destination was some fellowship with friends and a brief Alaskan adventure. I was just going to be gone a little more than two days but I was looking forward to it.
I got to the airport early enough. I was traveling on a “voucher” and that meant standby tickets. I’d get on if there was room. It was going to be tight for the 12:30 PM flight, but it was possible. There was greater likelihood that I could get on the 2:55 flight. I had a book. I had my iPad. I had my iPhone. There was a yogurt shop. I was all set.
12:30 PM rolled around and we were told that we were on “weather hold.” Unalaska/Dutch Harbor is prone to some pretty bad weather — winds, in particular — and no planes were taking off from Anchorage for the 3 hour flight until it looked a little better out there on the Aleutian chain.
That gave me time to grab some yogurt. Flan-flavored. Cool. Killing time.
But, by 1:30 PM the flight was cancelled. All the “regular” passengers were rebooked to the next day.
“But,” I thought, “that’s OK. I probably wasn’t going to get on that flight anyway. The weather could still clear up.”
So, I waited.
And I waited.
I played my iPad games.
I went for a walk…or two…or three…around the airport.
I resisted the temptation of Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls.
And we were told, at 2:55 PM that we were on another weather hold for the next flight. But that they should be able to take off at 4 PM.
By this time the potential for a standby ticket was diminishing as earlier passengers tried to change their plans.
Nevertheless I waited patiently and texted my friends in Unalaska to let them know it wasn’t looking good.
By 4:15 PM the next flight was cancelled. There would be no flights to Unalaska. And I was told not to bother checking on a standby ticket for the following day as the backlog of passengers tried to make the trip.
My Alaskan adventure ended before it really began in earnest. I was not going to enjoy time with friends. I was disappointed. I was ready to write the whole day off as a bust.
I texted a good friend of mine in the area to see if he wanted to meet for dinner somewhere. It had been a long time since we’d seen each other — a couple of months at least. And we found a restaurant to meet at before I travelled the 120 miles back home.
At this point I was feeling like I had wasted my day. I wasn’t travelling where I wanted to go. I had been sitting in an airport for 6 hours. I had munched on airport food and tried making small talk with strangers who were more frustrated as I was. I had a 2.5 hour drive in some wind and drizzle ahead of me where I could stew about my lost opportunity.
My friend texted back. We met and we talked…and we laughed…and another friend phoned in…and we shared about our kids and our jobs…and we talked about biking (A LOT about biking) and enjoyed a good meal together. The meal took 45 minutes but we were at the restaurant about 2 hours. They just kept refilling my water.
And, you know what, it was all OK. The day was redeemed through our relationship and enjoying each other’s company. It wasn’t Unalaska. But it was what I needed.
And to top it all of I got to go home and sit with my wife as we recounted our days.
I think there’s something to the notion that redemption comes through relationship. From a theological side of things we can say that redemption comes through our relationship with Christ; through his life, death, and resurrection. But, I think it’s very true that we can speak theologically about redemption coming through the relationships we have with others. Our God exists in community in the Trinity — Father, Son, & Holy Spirit — and we, too are designed to be in community with each other. Our connections provide a network of care and support through which God is able to act. We need each other.
As I sit here in Seward, Alaska, the rain coming down to close out a week and a half of sunshine, I’m pondering the relationships I have with people in my life–my family, church folks, other clergy, the baristas I know, the coffee shop crowd–and pray that God can offer a little redemption through me as well. A lot of folks have a whole lot more to deal with than just a long day at the airport. But redemption can come in the same form as it did for me–one relationship that lifts the burden at the right time.