Jesus shows himself to us and most usually when we don’t want him to! Chase and I were in Nashville on Thursday and Friday meeting with youth ministers. Around 10:00am I felt a fever coming on. The rest of Friday was rough. We had two flights and I slept as well as one can on the first flight. I had an airplane blanket over my head and was just miserable. I made it to our final connecting flights and pretty much just followed Chase through the airport with my head down looking at his suit case rolling before me.
Our seats were on the second to last row of the plain. I was in the middle, Chase was by the window and an elderly gentleman was SUPPOSED to be to my left. There was a drunk man behind us in the last row of the plane. As we were filing down the aisle I was picking up blankets and really preparing to sleep the last 35 minute flight away. My fever was high and I was just achy. It really was about all I could do to walk to my seat by that time last night. As the loud half Irish, half American Indian (we were receiving details all the way down the aisle) man roared, Chase turned to me to say, “how poetic”. We were taking our seats and Mark was ordering his Gin and tonic. He was also ordering one for every person around him. (This was his way of getting more Gin and Tonic for himself. I now know that the ½ hour flight limit is one alcoholic beverage. I now also know that when someone offers to buy you a drink on a plane it might not be for them. To say no could be hazardous. I said no.) Our plane was almost finished boarding and Mark had used the “F” word in 23 ways (none of them quiet). Chase I both agreed that two of these “F” word arrangements were new to us.
This is when the story gets good. I sat down and put the blankets over my head immediately trying to go to sleep. I heard the man behind me asking everyone if he could by them a drink. I could tell that the flight stewardess’s voice was worried to the point of calling her frantic. My honest first thought was, “seriously, I should ask her to get the air marshal back here.” His demeanor was bad enough that I quickly realized there was no air marshal on this flight. Out of the corner of my blanky I could see the elderly couple putting their bags up. I instantly knew that the pour lady was sitting right next to him behind me in the middle. Her husband was supposed to be next to me. As they stowed there bags IT got leaked. Mark was hitting people in the head with his hat . .. . hard, descriptively renaming them. He was going to drink with someone on that plane around him! Mark grabbed my blanket and ripped it off my head. “Drink with me! I’m an Okie and I’m not going to land sober!” It just came out of my mouth and cut through the air like a sharp knife making that sound you here in movies when someone unsheathes a sword. “I’m a preacher.” It wasn’t even the answer to the question. You could feel the entire back of the plane focus in without even trying to hide the fact that they were interested. The stewardess just stopped and looked at me and said, “Can he move up by you.”
I was thinking that he needed to go sit by the air marshal in handcuffs; but what came out of my mouth was, “sure”. I think Chase laughed audibly at this point. The folks in rows in our front started to position themselves to watch the 35 minute in flight reality TV show. Mark and I talked . . . . Loudly. I heard his pain. I confronted his pain with a simple message from Jesus. Mark was a miraculously recovered paraplegic. He had lost two children of his own, left his wife. Mark was an alcoholic getting older and more lonely. It’s not hard to make a drunk man share or cry. Mark cried. I cried because everything I told Mark I felt that he knew was true; but he didn’t want to accept it.
I prayed with Mark on our decent. As I finished Mark exclaimed, “I listened to every word of that prayer preacher and the whole thing was KICK A.” This is another time when Chase and some others around us laughed audibly. I got to meet Mark’s elderly parents in the lobby of the Tulsa airport. My heart is sad today for Mark. Mark says that he hates having feelings. They all hurt. He feels like a lonely looser. Mark has a whole in his heart only Jesus can fill. I really wanted to sleep on that flight. Jesus blessed me instead. He helped me see hurting people. Mark, you will never read this. But my prayer is that you let God find you, on his terms. He has always pursued you. It wasn’t science that healed you. It wasn’t coincidence that you sat by me last night. It was one more incident in your life where God was desperately seeking you. God was seeking me to. Thank you for waking me up Jesus. Show yourself to Mark.