I flew to Florida last week to speak at my home church's 140th anniversary. For this trip, I flew out of Florence. When I walked in the airport, I sensed something was amiss. The metal gate was pulled down over security, and there was a line at the ticket counter. I decided I'd better get in the line and soon discovered the plane had overheated in Charlotte. (I'd never heard of a plane overheating; maybe they needed to check the radiator.)
It was my turn in front of the harried ticket clerk. He told me the plane might be there in an hour, or it might not be. They were, however, getting a bus to take passengers to Charlotte for their connecting flights. After consulting the schedules, we realized I'd miss my flight to Sarasota, but I could make a flight to Tampa. Not a problem; I'd just call my brother and tell him to pick me up in Tampa. I told him to save me a seat on the bus.
After a five-minute wait, they called for those of us riding the bus to go outside. When I hear the word "bus," I think about a 60-foot-long bus with a bathroom and comfortable chairs. Their idea of a bus was a 15-passenger van.
Our van driver was most conscientious. He drove the speed limit all the way to Charlotte. When a sign read 35, he drove 34. He stopped at every yellow light. Several of us were worried about making our connections. We got to Charlotte in time for rush hours (from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.; not as bad as Atlanta, but close). I looked at my phone. Red lines were all over the map. I saw that we could go downtown and loop back to the airport. I suggested this to the driver. His reply: "I gotta stick to the route."
After creeping along in traffic for an hour, we arrived at the airport. My flight would leave in 50 minutes. All I had to do was get through security.
I got in a line that was moving fast. They had an Irish wolfhound sniffing all the passengers. I was afraid he would smell my dogs and go crazy, which would then entitle me to a strip search. Just as I got to the sniffing point, the line stopped. The dog had to go on break. Must be union rules.
Everyone else in security had to clear through, they had to change the procedure, and then let us non-sniffed people through. Now I'm down to 30 minutes before my plane leaves.
I get through security and hurry to my gate, C-15. The sign says the flight is going to Seattle/Tacoma. I've always wanted to go to Seattle, but not today. Turns out my departure gate had changed to B-4. I hustled to B-4 as boarding begins. I made it in the nick of time.
Then they stop boarding. They have not finished cleaning the plane. We wait 10 minutes and then hear an announcement that the heater on the plane is broken. The flight will be delayed 15 minutes. I'm thinking they should swap out for the plane that was overheating and call it even.
Then comes the announcement that this plane will be pulled from service. Stand by for further announcements. After 20 minutes and a stale turkey sandwich, a new announcement comes: A plane has been located (I can imagine some mechanic in a hangar saying, "Now where is that spare plane? I know I left it somewhere in here.") and we will now depart out of gate C-5. Back to C concourse. This starts to feel like airport bingo.
In the logic of these things, it turns out there was another flight to Tampa scheduled to go out of gate C-5. Because of our flight, the other flight to Tampa was now departing out of - wait for it - B-4. I saw half a dozen people attempting to get to Tampa trying to get on the wrong flight. A ticket agent said to one passenger, "You're at the wrong gate. You want to go to Tampa out of B-4. This is the flight to Tampa."
A plane ride, a bus trip, a different airport and 10 hours later, I met my brother at the Tampa airport. He promptly informed me I owed him $250. When I asked why, he told me he had to kill time in Tampa so he went to Bass Pro Shop, where he spent $250 he hadn't planned to spend. I told him to put it on my tab. I finally arrived at my ultimate destination, the ranch, at midnight.
I don't think anyone gets a smooth journey through life. There are lots of twists and turns. The most important thing is getting to your destination. That is why Jesus did not say, "Meet me at the gates of heaven." He did, however, say to many, and to you, "Follow me."
No matter how twisted your journey is, or how many different legs of the trip you have, if you follow Jesus, he will get you home.
The Rev. Dr. Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.
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