It was all set in my mind: Leave Boston at 4:35pm EST, land in Phoenix around 7:35pm PST, walk to my gate, and depart for my hometown in California at 8:18pm PST.
But then we sat on the runway for forty-five minutes because of weather delays. I lied to myself that the shrinking gap was still possible to cross as the flight went on. And then we hit turbulence, which can only be described as one of the few things that immediately spikes my heart rate and causes my mind to decide that it’s never going to get better and that this will be my lot in life for approximately fifteen years. There is no safe landing in my adrenal glands when we hit turbulence.
“I’m sorry, I missed it. What did the pilot say?” I asked the woman beside me.
“He said buckle up.”
“Oh, are you afraid of turbulence?” I questioned, looking for some camaraderie.
“No, I’m not. You?”
“Yes. I am. Just keep telling me it’ll be okay if I seem stressed.” I let out with a nervous laugh.
“Okay,” she said. “And if you really need it, I guess you can hold my hand.”
She was offering what we really want in moments of fear: comfort. This woman who was a total stranger knew that even if she wasn’t a touchy-feely person by nature, her offer of a hand to hold was what my heart needed somewhere over Ohio. I needed someone to advocate for me.
We landed in Phoenix thirty-five minutes late.
I started sprinting with a backpack and a camera bag and a bum shoulder.
I was out of breath so I pushed the Siri button on my iPhone with my headphones still in and breathlessly said, “Call Bre Lee.” Bre lives in Phoenix and is a good talker off-er of ledges. She would reassure me that even if I didn’t make it, she would help me out as a friend in the city I was about to be stranded in. She listened to me run and tell her over and over that I wasn’t going to make it. She sat there while I made myself keep going through two terminals. And when I didn’t make it in time and was greeted by the “Doors Closed” sign, she told me she would be standing by as I figured out the next steps. I needed someone to assure me that I wasn’t alone.
I went on a hunt for customer service. I looked for my bag, which had made the flight to my hometown without me. I was sweaty and aching and toiletry-less. So I called my friend Bailey who was barely still awake and she told me she was so sorry that things were falling apart and I was about to spend the night not in my final destination. I needed someone to comfort me.
The next morning, as I woke up at a hotel in a town I didn’t plan to be in, I went to the roof and was reminded in Psalm 29 that God comes to His people with His power and He gives us strength and peace. I sat there, jetlagged and exhausted, and recalled that the Holy Spirit is an advocate, Someone who comes alongside. And sometimes, we see the shadows of that work of advocacy through the presence of others. We experience their kindness, and it points us to our great Advocate. He’s reflected in the strangers and friends that meet us when things are falling apart.
I got on a flight stand-by. I was the second to last one on that flight to my hometown and when I arrived at the seat, a woman in the spot beside me (who knew the flight was full) looked at me, smiled, and said, “I was waiting for you.”