Newsletter: “Waiting at the Airport”

Dear Friends of Second Church,

I’m eyeing the reports of the approaching snow Nor’easter (is that a S’noreaster?), keeping in mind the departure of our group for Back Bay Mission in Biloxi, Mississippi, early on Sunday morning.

I’m due to follow a little later on Sunday afternoon, but remembering the way things at airports can get turned around by weather, I had the sudden, horrible thought:

“Yikes! What if I actually get there before the others do?”

That actually happened to a friend of mine, who was meeting his family somewhere warm for a short vacation. Instead of being picked up at the gate, as expected, he turned on his phone to discover that the others were all still sitting at the gate at O’Hare.

With nothing but time on his hands, he went and had a steak at the airport. Then he had a fancy dessert. He got a massage at one of those micro-spas, and was actually considering getting his first pedicure before he came to himself and decided to make himself useful by going and picking up the rental car—a predictably time-consuming fiasco for which he was suddenly strangely grateful.

Funny what can become a cause for gratitude, isn’t it?

But it’s also a reminder of how strange it is to be alone—how solitude (the good version) and loneliness (the bad one) are often far closer to each other than we might imagine—and how even a short respite from the expected routine can leave us surprised to discover how quickly we feel isolated and adrift.

It’s a brief taste of the feelings that many of the most vulnerable in our world know all too well.  To be sick, or in hard circumstances isn’t painful in just one way–say, physically, or even economically. What’s painful is the loss of friends and neighbors, family and coworkers, and the slow dawn of the realization that you have, somehow, become a pariah.  Or simply invisible.

For me, service trips like ours to Biloxi are so powerful, in part, because we offer so much more than just “cheap labor” wherever it is we go. We offer fellowship and community—the sense of God’s presence that comes when someone breaks through the isolation of another and finds a way to make contact. And of course, so often, we find in the giving that something isolated deep within ourselves is also opened and healed—that God has found a way to speak to us in our own brokenness, too.

I am delighted that we are resuming a form of adult ministry that, over the years, so many of our members have found so transformational. I still pray that God will not ask me to be the one who picks up all the rental cars. But who knows? Maybe this is the very kind of transformation I might need.

I hope that you will find a way to remain open to whatever it is that’s most in need of transformation in your own life—and that you’ll seek that transformation in service to others.

See you in church,

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