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This Year I'm Flying Standby


Words by Sara Gilmore // Images by Lauren Fair

I started 2014 doing one of the things I love most: traveling. As I boarded a plane on the first day of last year, I felt a sense of adventure marking the new year. I had spent my morning dreaming with God about a new year of my life, and I couldn’t stop thinking all day long about the idea of being on an ongoing journey with him.

But when the time came for me to return from my trip, a snowstorm had hit the entire southeastern region of the United States, and flights were backed up for days. I got my name on a standby list, put all my hope in the next plane, and for two days and probably ten flights, I was denied a seat.

Sometimes we can show up in the right place at the right time and still not get what we were hoping for.

As I sat waiting for a plane in Dallas on the front end of my trip, I thought about the destinations I wanted to reach in my life this year. It’s something we do at the end of every year—we look at where we’ve been and we readjust to get to where we want to go.

Don’t get me wrong—these goals are important. We should keep before us the things we desire to accomplish. But I’m so quick to keep my eyes on the final destination that I miss the journey that gets me there. Or, perhaps worse, I get completely lost because I’ve never actually looked right in front of me to see the path that leads me to my destination.

So I sit down as one year ends and another begins, look back at the last 365 days of my life, and get frustrated that I didn’t magically appear at the place I had hoped to reach—all because I didn’t submit to the journey and find the stops along the way that would ultimately take me to my destination.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about this idea of rerouted trips and detoured plans because, honestly, I have dealt with some disappointment with God this year. Certain dreams haven't come to life as much as I'd hoped they would have by now. There are other dreams that I've had to lay down, not knowing if or when I'll ever pick them back up again. Relationships have changed, and I have grieved as new seasons of life and growing up force me to narrow my life.

That day in the airport, I could feel things shifting in my life, and that made me uncomfortable. So I started asking myself hard questions.

Why am I so afraid of taking the necessary risks to get where I want to go? Not just where I want to go, but where I feel like God has clearly said he wants to take me. What am I afraid of having to leave behind in order to get there? When I make decisions, do I partner with God to advance the kingdom and his purposes for my life, or do I partner with the enemy and allow fear and uncertainty to hold me back?

I started thinking about all the stories that I love to read in the Bible. I wondered how short God’s Word would be if we only were given the starting point and the final destination of all those people. Isn’t the story that develops along the journey the point? Of course there’s a happy ending when we all step into eternity, but intimacy with God is born in these moments of trusting him on the way there. This is where our history with him is made, so that when we arrive in heaven, it isn’t a first meeting—it’s a long awaited reunion.

I started thinking about how maybe I’m not all that different from those people I love reading about:

Adam and Eve, the first wanderers, were sent out from the garden so they would not live forever in misery. Their journey was necessary for the eventual redemption of God’s people.

Abraham and Sarah were obedient to God’s call—they believed in his promise to bless their offspring forever, all the way down to the Savior himself. When they received the promise, they were well into their older years, yet they still submitted to the journey.

Moses willingly wandered through the desert for years and years, leading God’s people even when they despised him for it. He never saw the Promised Land himself, but his journey enabled the generations to come to inherit the promises of God.

Esther, a stranger made queen, wandered right into royalty and courageously stood up to a king she had no business approaching. The result? A free people.

Oh, and what about David, the shepherd boy made king? His adventures are some of my favorite to read. He wavered at times but knew deeply the value of praising and glorifying the King along the way.

Jesus was born in a manger to two kids on a journey, and I think it’s so fitting that his birth was an “on the go” sort of scenario. This is the way he would live the rest of his life. Scripture says that even the Son of Man did not have a place to lay his head. And I get the feeling that he didn’t care. He was on a journey, and his was the greatest journey of all—the one that will ultimately take us all home.

Paul traveled as he planted churches. He was thrown in and out of prison and faced adversity knowing that his mission was his destination, not any physical place he’d ever settle in. He knew the finish line to the race he was running was eternity with Jesus, and until then, he lived with a passion and a purpose that pointed everyone else toward that same homecoming. He ran the race to get the prize, but his time on earth was only the road that led him there (1 Cor. 9:24).

This is only the beginning of a list that contains so many other travelers.

This is the nature of being a human with a story—we live a lot more of our lives in the story’s development than we do at its beginning or end. 

With our hearts set on a pilgrimage, we willingingly go through the valley of weeping and in to the places of springs, until the day we kneel before God in Zion (Ps. 84.)

As I sat in the airport toward the end of my 48-hour flight cancellation adventure, I thought, “Yep, this seems about right.” There I was, on a stand-by list once again, almost numb to the idea that I might actually get on a plane some time, but somehow still hoping they’d finally call my name and take me home.

I decided in that moment how I wanted to live my life in the new year: completely out of my control, boarding to the next destination when he calls my name and finding rest in the journey when he doesn’t. Responding only to his voice: the passport to a most extraordinary excursion.

*This article was originally published in Issue No. 4 of Deeply Rooted Magazine