Off to Tokyo! All was ready. The van loaded for the trip into Chicago. Arrival at O’Hare. Hug the kids, the wife. Head into the terminal. Only to discover that my plans would be (at least temporarily) terminated.
You know that feeling in your stomach when you realize that you have made a colossal blunder? That was my feeling as I scanned my passport at check-in only to discover that it had expired in July! Some of you will wonder at this, because you know that I checked it before leaving. All I can say is that I thought the 5 was a 6. And in the world of passport travel there is a big difference between July of 2015 and July of 2016. What to do? Let me give you the short version, and then a couple of observations. Short version: Through the suggestion of an United Airlines representative, I headed downtown to the federal building. There I waltzed in, got an application, and had my picture taken. I then talked to a representative of the US passport agency who could not have been more understanding or accommodating. I was told to return at 3 pm and a new 10 year passport would be waiting for me. And … it was. So here I am 24 hours later than expected ready to board the plane for Tokyo.
Observation #1: In his heart man makes his plans, but the Lord directs his steps. (Prov. 16:9) I have no idea why things transpired the way they did, misreading the passport, etc … But as Zoe reflected on our tense, yet unresolved trip back into Chicago headed to the federal building, “God must not have wanted you on that airplane”. I believe she was right. Lisa and the girls had planned the day and overnight in Chicago, I got to join them. What a gift. I contacted organizers in Tokyo, told them of the situation, and all is well. So why is this happening? I could jump on the plane today strike up a life long friendship and see the Lord’s hand at work. I could get on and have something bad happen. We would trust that it was the Lord’s plan. I may never know why humanly speaking. It may have just been that my family needed the day together in Chicago. Whatever the case, the Lord is directing our steps.
Observation #2: Human kindness is much appreciated. I had really messed up. I was hurting, ashamed, fearful of how things would work out. In the midst of this I received a string of kindness. The United agent, my wife and kids, the folks with the government at the passport agency, the concierge at our hotel as we prepared for one extra person in the room; all were over the top kind, gracious even. It made a huge difference in my day. There were some pretty low points that would have been exacerbated by anything less than kindness. But kindness offered buoyed my spirit and turned clouds to sunshine. As I head to Tokyo, much of my preaching and teaching will be centered around preaching and teaching the gospel of grace. I trust that my understanding of it will be strengthened having experienced the unmerited grace of folks throughout Friday.
And so I get ready to board, again. Humbled, but strengthened in knowing that God holds all things in his hands, and that grace abounds.