When my husband and I were offered five days at an island resort in exchange for listening to a timeshare presentation, I never imagined it would lead to an epic anniversary trip a year in the making, or that my first experience flying standby would prove such a powerful compare-and-contrast lesson in God’s unfailing, unconditional love.
Last year a friend who works for an airline heard we were celebrating a milestone anniversary. He offered us buddy passes to fly anywhere in the world with one condition: make it a worthwhile trip.
To fly to Florida, Savannah, the Alabama coast, or any other easy road trip from our Georgia home would be a waste.
When a phone survey ended with an amazing offer — six days at our choice of resorts if we’d attend a timeshare presentation — it seemed like the perfect opportunity to put those buddy passes to good use.
Months later we worked out dates and details and booked four flights, two going and two returning home, and counted down the days until our island adventure.
Flying standby is an adventure in itself. You sit at the gate for the flight you hope to take with your eyes glued to the monitor, watching to see if your name moves from the standby list to the list of those guaranteed a seat.
Your ranking on that list depends on factors including length of employment by the airline and whether you’re an actual employee or a friend of one. Someone can join the standby list at the last minute and jump ahead of you if their rank is higher, as I later learned firsthand.
Although we wouldn’t get to sit together, we made the passenger list for our first flight; however, a man was already sitting in my husband’s assigned seat when we boarded. I moved to the back of the plane not knowing if my husband was still on it, but in the moments before we turned off our cell phones, he texted that he had been given another seat. Whew!
Five hours later we reunited at last, glad to reach the halfway point of our trip together again, but as we compared notes I’m ashamed to say my attitude soured.
The man who exchanged seats with my husband in order to sit with his family was what the airline called a Two Million Miler. When you’ve flown over two million miles with an airline they treat you mighty special. In this case it was my husband who received the special treatment.
He sat in seat 1A, while I sat in 49F — the last seat on the last row in the very back of the plane.
I was offered a small drink and two tiny bags of peanuts, but my husband ate a full course meal: salad, calzone, fresh fruit, and dessert. While I watched a small monitor on the back of the seat ahead of me, which locked up and needed to be reset, my husband had a large wall-mounted screen (he was just behind the cockpit) for his viewing pleasure. At the end of the flight my knees and legs were achy from being cramped, but he’d had plenty of room to stretch his legs.
Did I congratulate my husband on his good fortune in seat assignments? No, I did not. I grumbled and stewed over the disparity in our flight conditions. Why him and not me?
But as he continued to revel in the story of his trip — and believe me, he had photos to document every detail of his special-but-undeserved treatment — I had to smile and laugh along with him. Neither of us will be treated so well on a flight again ever.
I couldn’t help but use our experience to contrast how the world views us compared to how we’re seen through God’s eyes.
The world rewards us on our own merit: years of employment, dollars earned, miles flown. But salvation isn’t accomplished through our own works, but by the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
We could never earn His love or favor; none deserve it, but He grants it still.
As easy as it was to catch that first flight, we didn’t make the final cut on nine others by the time we returned home. Others sometimes joined the waiting list at the last-minute, outranking us and moving us further down the line.
The Bible tells us that God is no respecter of persons (see Acts 10:34-35).
His mercies extend to us all: “. . . He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)
What a blessing to be known by a steadfast and faithful God, who loves us unconditionally, not because our own merit but for the extraordinary sacrifice of His son!