Monday, March 10, 2014

Lenten Reflections, Day 3: Giving Up Independence

I finished up my teaching assignment on Saturday afternoon and hurried to the airport to catch my 4:40 flight home, only to find, upon my arrival, that the flight had been cancelled.

The next flight was at 6:35, so I had to hang around the airport and kill some time. It was a minor inconvenience for me—I was just heading home rather than racing for a connecting flight or trying to get to an important meeting on time. I had plenty of reading material and a computer to keep me occupied during my wait.

The man at the airline’s check-in counter was apologetic and kind. We explored a couple of options for me and agreed that waiting the extra couple of hours was the best choice. He gave me my new boarding pass and I went upstairs, passed successfully through security, and settled in.

That airline official, at the end of his shift, would climb into his car, drive home, eat dinner, chat with his family, catch up on past episodes of Breaking Bad, and go to bed. All the people who had to be redirected because of the cancelled flight, however, had evenings that were disrupted because of the delay. Each traveller—including me—had become dependent upon a man (and the airline he represented) who did not have to share the inconveniences that had been inflicted upon us. Perhaps he had to put up with some grouchy customers, but he still got to go home on time.

Given the circumstances, I am not holding a grudge against that man. He recognized my plight, helped me consider some options, and expressed his apologies on behalf of his employer. I didn’t come away feeling exploited or disparaged, even though I recognized my dependence on him and the airline to get me home at a reasonable time.

There have been times when people have been dependent upon me. How have I treated them? Did they come away with a sense that they were lesser humans than others because of their need for care? Did they feel that I had little or no concern for their pain or discomfort because it was not truly shared between us? Or did they experience me entering into their circumstance with them, helping to shoulder a burden they could not endure alone? Did they hear me express grief over a tragedy that was not mine to share, or did they just hear the clicking of my tongue as I stood away from them, glad that the sufferer was not me?

In speaking of Jesus, the writer of the book of Hebrews says,

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)

We can confidently expect God’s mercy and grace in our time of need because we believe that, in Jesus, God has fully entered into all that it means to be human. When others become dependent upon us, may we cast our lots with the One who truly sympathizes with our weaknesses.

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