Steps and Stops

A dream come true… an Alaskan cruise! It was a trip we had talked about for years. Finally we decided it was time to make the dream a reality.

The anticipation during the weeks leading up to travel was wonderful. Actually, some researchers claim that the best part about a trip is the anticipation… but I’m not so sure about that. I do know that when John and I headed for the airport, we were full of excitement and so delighted to be on our way at last.

“We regret to inform you that there will be a delay in your flight due to mechanical problems on the aircraft”… words you don’t like hearing at an airport! Fifteen minutes delay turned into thirty, then forty-five. Then the flight was cancelled altogether. That removed any chance of making our connection to Seattle. We were re-routed to Seattle via Dallas, but it meant arriving there at 11 PM instead of 11 AM! The first fun day of our vacation would now be deleted. But it was the best option… so we flew to Dallas.

At first we consoled ourselves that at least we were discovering a new airport. We had never been to Dallas before. The airport had an ultramodern monorail system… this could turn out to be an enjoyable adventure after all. Then lightening shut down the Skylink monorail between terminals. So, we had to trudge miles from terminal to terminal, hoping to finally make it onto an earlier flight via stand-by. The storm prevented flights from landing and taking off. The airport became crowded with frustrated, angry, tired, impatient travelers.

What had started out as such an exciting day with every detail planned perfectly, was now in upheaval. I was tempted to fuss a little at God… after all; didn’t He know that we NEEDED this break? That we DESERVED a complication-free vacation?

Psalm 37:23 states: The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. My father used to quote this verse frequently; however he would add his own little postscript to the verse. So he quoted it like this: The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord… and also the STOPS!

The steps AND the stops! It is easy for me to be cheerful and relaxed when my steps are marching forward just as I want. But when an interruption comes, or a change in plans occurs, or a complete topsy- turvy upset destroys my agenda, then I have a choice. Will I become irritable and impatient, or will I choose to look on such unpredicted reversals as perhaps part of a bigger scheme?

It would be nice if I could say that while we were in Dallas, we had an incredible conversation with an atheist and ended up leading him to faith in Jesus. That would make it easy to see God in our delay. But no… it was just a long, fatiguing delay.

But then again, there was the wonderful airline clerk who worked non-stop (with a smile on her face!) for an hour and a half, hunting flights that would get us to Seattle. There was the chance we had to catch up on a few phone calls we had been wanting to make, as we waited for our flight. And we recalled our prayer and the prayers of others that no mode of transportation would be able to leave on this trip, unless the Lord knew it would be safe to arrive at its destination. God WAS there in the turn of events… we just had to look a little harder to spot Him. But when we did, the peace and patience and pleasure returned. When we looked for Him we felt His presence… and that made us smile… even in a stand-by line.

In the end, we made it to Seattle and then to Alaska where we saw incredible vistas of God’s handiwork and sailed through many days free of unwanted surprises. Often, as I surveyed the beautiful mountains and lakes and forests, I recalled the psalmist’s song… “I will lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1) It reminded me that I can find evidence of God’s goodness and helpfulness all around me, IF I look for it. And that is true, not only on the days that buzz along beautifully, but also on the days full of interruptions, delays and disappointments. My dad was right… the Lord orders our stops, as well as our steps, and uses them to open our eyes to see Him more clearly.

Maybe the Lord could stop me next on the way to… Hawaii??