I looked at the many people asleep on the plane and wished I could join them. At the JFK airport I’d taken melatonin in hopes that I could sleep through the hours over the Atlantic. That vain imagination was soon shattered as the stewardess woke me four times to ask if I needed a drink. You would think the glare I gave her the first time would have conveyed the message.
So there I was, arms crossed, staring down the hours. I was horribly uncomfortable and my knees ached like mad. My earphones had long since wigged out, just getting me midway through The Eagle, a story about a Roman soldier braving his way past Hadrian’s Wall to recover his father’s honor.
I turned my face toward the window. The sun faded over the ocean, kissing the periwinkle waves in departure and turning them the color of ink. Those still awake and fortunate enough to have a window seat abruptly closed the shades, thinking there was nothing left to see.
Annoyance furrowed my brow. There’s always something to see. Even the black empyrean has tales to tell . . . Had they left the shade open . . . The beginnings of stories started to come to me, none worth anything. I rubbed my hands over my face thinking jet lag was setting in early and softening my mind.
I’ve long had a suspicion that timing is everything and although we can’t always see it, God is in the details. So there I sat, looking for His hand in my circumstances. My thoughts turned to the movie I’d watched earlier. Why that movie? Why this flight? A soldier against all odds braves certain death just for the sake of honor . . . Hadrian’s Wall . . . a place I’m going to see on this trip . . . Hmmm . . .
Frustrated because nothing profound was coming to me, I got up and wandered down the isle, just to walk. I drew my arms in close, not wanting to disturb those who were sleeping. I scanned their faces as I passed, wondering what their individual stories held. This journey had taken me decades. Was it as important for them?
By a wall in the middle of the plane, I saw a place where I could stand. There, in the dim artificial light, I scanned the backs of seats and the hints of movement from the people. A silver haired woman came to stand beside me. We didn’t speak for a few moments, we just let the movement of the plane rock us, both lost in our own thoughts.
Finally, our tired smiles met. After a few minutes I found out that she lived less than a half hour where my husband grew up—the very place where Bianca, the heroine of my novel, is from. Small world, I thought, passing over the information with a polite nod. We both laughed when I mentioned Hickies, a greasy spoon hamburger joint with quite a local reputation.
We must have stood there for two hours, holding court above the sea. Drawn together for just an epiphany of time, she and I had found a strange and unlikely common bond. I was coming from Colorado. She had been visiting her daughter in Florida before she boarded the plane to JFK and then England. We both fell into a companionable silence.
The light began to change in the few open windows. The hope of reaching England was turning into a euphoria heightened by my lack of sleep. The woman smiled at me before she turned to go back to her seat.
Now standing alone, I breathed deep and leaned against the wall. People began to wake and reach for the window shades, flooding the cabin with bright white light. Suddenly, Matthew 28:20 came into my mind: “ . . . lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” I looked out at the carpet of clouds, a peace spreading over me like the burnished glow of the new day sun.
It was then that I felt God clearly in the details I’d been trying to sort. It was like He saw me working so hard to decode whatever cryptic message I thought was in The Eagle and that made Him smile. All right, He might have said. You want to know that I’m here. Let me show you. And I’ll give you a reference to Bianca, just for fun.
I firmly believe that God cares about the little things in our life. Writers in general tend to agonize over their stories, wanting to entertain but also to make a difference too. There, on the border of my destination, I had a feeling that I'd made a difference already. Because He had seen me. And that makes all the difference in the world.