Carry-on stowed. I settled into my favorite; an aisle seat. With an empty seat to my left, on an otherwise full plane, I knew it was going to be a great flight. My situation was as close to perfection as one can get when flying coach.
As I began to relax, I noticed some discussion going on between two flight attendants and an older couple not taking their seats. As one of the flight crew approached... I knew my comfort was in jeopardy. The woman at the window and I were asked if either one of us would be willing to give up our seats so the elderly couple could sit together. I glanced at my seat mate... I could tell by her demeanor she was not moving.
I looked at the spot I would be moving to and it didn't look good. It was the last seat, in the middle of the last row, in the very back of the plane. I looked back into the smiling face of the flight attendant and replied, "I'd be happy to."
At the risk of sounding like a jerk... the middle seat I was moved to happened to be between two rather large people. I wouldn't mention it but for the fact that as I settled into the reality of my new home... their need for more space than I became immediately evident. I talked myself through as their arms settled over the top of mine.
I can do this, I thought. I just have to try not to panic. I convinced myself, God must have a reason for this change. Perhaps we were going to crash and my seat would be safe or the elderly couple would be spared and I'd go on to heaven. Either way... I was completely surrendered and willing to take the last and worst seat on the plane... simply because it was the right thing to do.
Final preparations before take-off ensued. It seemed to be taking a very long time to depart. I just wanted to get this portion of my adventure over with. Suddenly, the flight attendant reappeared. She called me forth with her right index finger... "Ma'am, would you please come with me?" I got up as quickly and gracefully as possible and followed her toward the front of the plane. I didn't know where she was taking me but I knew God was in charge and more than ever I was truly along for the ride.
"We so appreciate your willingness to give up your seat, she said. We've had one of our first class passengers need to leave the flight. Would you mind taking his seat here in first class instead?" Shocked, amazed and trying to contain myself, I replied, "I wouldn't mind that at all." On a dime the tables had turned. My situation had gone from great... to bad... to worse... to more than I could have imagined. I ended up drinking from a real glass. I ate a hot tasty meal with real silverware and a cloth napkin. Everyone seemed to look at me as though I'd done something good and deserved every good thing I received. I felt humbled and thankful.
I was reminded of this story at Bible Study this morning. As we discussed at table the Parable of the Guests in Luke's Gospel.
8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. 10 But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
New American Standard Bible
God knows I'm willing to give up my seat. I've done it lots of times since the first. Haven't landed in first class again. But God gave me a glimpse of what is possible and I believe in His promise; of greater things for us than we can imagine when we are willing to sacrifice. I pray I can live with a spirit of discernment... so I know when it's my turn to step down and back... or up and forward.