Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How Prepared are you really?

Headphones. Snacks. Book. I patted my back. I knew how to travel. The five hour flight to Phoenix would be nothing.

Then I looked across to my seatmate. A seventy-something-year-old gentleman.

With one minuscule magazine.

I said,”You travel light.”

That was my first mistake.

By hour three, I'd heard about his wife's death from ovarian cancer ten years before, his father's death from a car accident when he was one, his brother's suicide at thirty-five and his sister's death at twenty-four. When he shared how his granddaughter had died during the first days after his wife's funeral, and then he pulled out a snapshot of a beautiful blond-haired senior, I forgot about my reading and music plans and reached for a tissue.

That's when I made my second mistake.

"My wife’s in heaven, but will I ever get there?," he said through his tears.

The perfect storm. What every Christian prays for. An opportunity to give assurance.

But that’s when I blew it.

I mumbled something like, "If you believe, you'll get there and see her."

Yeah. Right. If you believe in what.

The entire next week I prayed we would be on the return flight together. When I rushed to my gate to board, I looked for him. I was seated a few rows up from where I'd sat before. Then I saw him coming toward me. His face lit up and he stopped to say hello.

Nothing more. I didn’t get a second chance.

I pray he will.

I've thought about this man often and how I let him down. I see his face, his tears and his pain.

I didn't speak when I should have but I promised myself the next time I will. In the meantime, until I get that opportunity again, I also promised myself I can do what I do best.

I can write about it.

Are you better prepared than I was?

39 comments:

AnooCre8ion said...

Terri that's something I believe happens to all of us either at one time or another. Sometimes more than once. I've been in that place just recently when I felt that I had an opportunity to share and didn't. thank God for His grace and pray that they're exposed to the Word somehow.

blessings,
Vickie

Tammy said...

You're not alone. I've been there with..."I should have."

love and hugs~Tammy

Jody Hedlund said...

Hi Terri,

Thanks for sharing so openly about your experience. I think we've probably all been there at one time, where we've missed an opportunity to really share the truth, where the words escape us, where fear of rejection rules over us. We can only pray for the boldness to do better the next time!

Robin @ Be Still and Know said...

We have all had opportunity like that. Moments we have let slip by us. I think it is those times that pass us buy that God uses to convict us and help move us along to the next moment, and then the next moment and then the next.

1PE 3:15 ...Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

Blessing my friend!
Thanks for your transparency!
R

Rosslyn Elliott said...

A great reminder, Terri. Thanks for a good thought to start off the morning!

Jessica Nelson said...

Terri, I've done the same thing. I know how you feel.
The great thing is God can still use the conversations you had. If he knew you were a Christian, then the fact that you listened and filled up some of his lonely hours will count for a lot.
I think many times we underestimate the power of what we don't say. Sometimes people need to feel like they trust someone (or have a good experience with a Christian) before they can trust someone else.
Like I said, I know the disappointment you feel in yourself. Been there. :-( But don't worry, I'm thinking God has a wonderful plan for that man. Will pray for him!

Jill Kemerer said...

Terri, you showed him the true meaning of Christianity by listening to him. Maybe he didn't need a sermon. He needed a kind ear, and he'll probably always remember the flight because of it.

The mustard seed is there--you watered it with kindness.

Diane said...

I hope I will be ready. That encounter was for you as much as it was for him. I pray I will be ready to answer when those times present themselves. :O)

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

I imagine we've all had moments of wishing we'd said more... I certainly have, but I do believe that you will be given another occasion similar to this one to speak the life and truth of Jesus Christ into the mix. I think we often feel inadequate along these lines... that we're going to blow it for Jesus. But here's the deal, we can't blow it for Jesus. His truth never fails, even if the delivery is a bit shaky (wish you could have heard my radio interview this morning). He uses us as his mouthpiece on occasion, even more so as his hands, so that when others ask us regarding the hope that is within our hearts, we're well-prepared with the only answer that holds the power of life and death, heaven and hell.

Jesus Christ.

Just Jesus.

Don't be surprised when the next time rolls around because it will. Take hold of it and be bold. I will do the same.

peace~elaine

Nancy said...

I think it is great that you spent such a long time listening to this man. He needed that. And you were so desirous to meet him again. The Lord knows your heart. He can send someone to this man to be the next linc in the chain. And your readears are right, we've all been there.

Lin Floyd said...

life is full of learning experiences, be gentle with yourself, we are all still students.

Carmen said...

Thanks for sharing this Terri! I agree with Jill. Sometimes we're there to water the seed a bit more. This man could have been full of bitterness towards God because of all the losses he's endured.

We serve a gracious God,and often people need to hear something repeatedly before it sinks in, albeit a small nugget at a time. You did what needed to be done, and there will be many other opportunities in your future.

Go easy on yourself girl! God knows you and loves you!

Natalie said...

Oh, how sad. I think more than anything he probably just needed to talk about things. I'm sure your listening did him some good, even if you didn't feel like you communicated the things you would have liked to share.

I've had many experiences like that, where I've felt like my words have been not enough or haven't been right. We are only human though. God knows that.

Nehha said...

Many a times I realise that I should have said something that would make more sense and could contribute in decreasing the pain of the person in question. But the irony is that I realise this later on and unfortunately, there is no turning back time.

So, all I do is stop conversing for a moment and think of the first best way by which I could comfort the person. May it be probing him/her to speak it out (this works for most of us humans because we just want to share share and share), or may be to show my heartfelt sorry; it all depends and is very situational.

It makes me feel like " I tried my best at that very moment!!!".

Analisa said...

I agree with Jill, maybe he needed an ear most. Keep praying and God will open a door for him to hear and receive the gospel. For all we know he may already know God, but just was so mired in his grief he had just forgotten his standing.

Jan Cline said...

We must remember that Christ lives in us and his light in us makes more impact than our words. It's his presence that might have stirred something in that man. But I know that frustration - I am so excited to share about my writing to someone on a plane. But why cant I share Jesus?

Janna Qualman said...

Being faced with that moment is so tough. Really jumping in and saying what we should leaves us exposed, but we have to get beyond that, don't we?

I'd have struggled, too, Terri.

Deborah Ann said...

Wow, what a 'coincidence' you saw him on the flight back! I'm sure some seeds were planted...

Sherrinda said...

I'm with you. I never feel like I say or do the right thing at the right time. Later, I think of things, but I freeze up during the moment. Sigh...

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Terri--I think you did a wonderful job. You gave him comfort in his time of need. My guess is you gave him exactly what he needed. He wouldn't have approached you with a smile if you had pushed too hard or, the reverse, if you had not shown him that you are a follower of Christ. Him remembering you and approaching you with a smile tells me that you reached him. WTG!

Karen Lange said...

You know, I've been in similar situations and then struggle with it. The only thing left to do, as you said, is to pray and learn from it. I've also had situations where someone will say how my words affected them - and I hardly said anything at all. Somehow the Lord used the small syllables I managed to utter to be a witness. So I don't ever disregard even the smallest seed sown. Thanks for being real, and reminding us to be prepared. Hugs and blessings to you,
Karen

ginny said...

Don't beat yourself up so much. You did make a statement that planted a seed in his heart. Continue to pray for this man anyway. Sometimes the pain is so awful that no words could help. God will reward your sweet effort, I truly believe this.
My prayer every day is to ask the Holy Spirit to let my words be a blessing to others, and for others to bless me by what they say.
You did good.....

Sista In Arms Lxx said...

I think we have all been in that position at some point in our lives, just the fact that you were prepared to listen means so much. Lxx

Lynn said...

I find sharing faith very difficult, and have clammed up when the opportunity has arisen. Maybe that was the perfect words for the gentleman at that time? Sometimes a simple statement can lead to a question that won't go away in the mind. That's what happened to me. An old friend said he'd become a Christian. Nothing else. And that led to my own searching. And back to God.
Blessings to you Tiffany, for writing about this as it has opened up the question for me on how I can share my faith, which will ultimately lead to sharing it, God willing.

Lynda Schab said...

Been there, done that, Terri! More proof that we are, indeed, human! Yes, the missed opportunity is disappointing but how awesome that God extends his unending grace and mercy even when we do dumb things. Hugs to you and prayers for the stranger on the plane.

T. Anne said...

Please don't feel bad Terri! The Holy Spirit saves we just plant seeds. If God wants him in heaven he will get there. Keep praying for him. God may be prepping you for a bigger task. Use this guilt to for fuel. OXOX

Kara said...

I understand how you feel. I think God is working within you and this man already. The seeds have been planted, you are sharing your experience. By doing this you are touching others. That man was able to share his grief with someone. I believe he felt Gods presence and all because you were there listening:)

LauraLee Shaw said...

Oh girl, I have been there. More than once. I'm so thankful we have a sovereign God who does not condemn us and who has the ability to draw the lost to Himself with or without our help. The cool thing is that we learn from it, it increases our confidence for the next time. How cool that we get to be involved in any way at all! So glad you shared this. It certainly made me think!

Erin Frost said...

I'm certainly not better prepared. For me, part of faith has become forgiving myself for failings in situations like yours. But ... I don't think you did fail. The fact that he was happy to see you again seems a good sign, and maybe what you percieved as a failure was exactly the sort of quiet assurance he needed at that moment. I'll say a prayer for him.

jdcoughlin said...

His face lit up and he stopped to say hello, are you nuts? You made a connection. You listened to his stories. You gave him the gift of letting him express himself. That is no mistake. That is your gift. God is love. You gave him that. No judgement. No fancy answers. You gave him something lovely.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I try to be. I always pray God can use me in spite of myself. You sat by him for a reason... I know God used you.

Doris Plaster said...

Terri, what a beautiful story. Don't feel bad about anything. You certainly did more than you think. You LISTENED to him, he found a compassionate person to share his sadness with. You were companion for him in those four hours. His smile confirmed it. He didn't need to go back to you and share more of his sorrow. He already did, and apparently moved on. I am sure he looked stronger by then. ((((hugs))))
Doris

Warren Baldwin said...

Terri, I left a comment on this one, too, but don't know where it went.

You listened, and that is one of the most loving things a person can do, as I just posted about on FB.

Kim Brake said...

I am always amazed att he opportunities we have, and that how even though we ask for them, sometimes we are still unprepared. God surely knows your heart, and his.
Thank you for stopping by my new little corner of the blog-universe.

Lily Robinson said...

Yeah, we've all been there. But remember... God doesn't tell us to save people. He tells us to plant the seed. He does the saving. I pray that your seed will be watered, and grow strong.

Susan Panzica - EternityCafe said...

Terri,
I'm so thankful to have stopped here this morning. I boarded a flight to Phoenix 2 days ago. I'm here for the week with my mom and sister to visit my aunt. It may be the last time my mom sees her sister. She's dying of pulmonary fibrosis. It is a progressive disease with no cure.

I am praying to be sensitive to His leading, to be bold if opportunity arises, and for their hearts to be prepared by Him for Him.

My mind tells me to just shine a light and to followup privately later because my family is Jewish and my sister and mom are hostile to the gospel. They love me, but don't want me to breathe a word about Jesus.

My spirit longs to share, but I need to be patient and let Him do the talking in His time.

It's a delicate balance. Years ago when I used to commute to work in NYC by train, I often found myself in a similar position to yours. Not knowing when to share, I memorized 2 scripture verses: one from Prov that says, "Even a fool when he (she) keeps silent is considered wise." And from Gal "Let your speech always be seasoned with grace..." I would pray and let the Lord bring one verse or the other to mind. That way, if it was to speak, I'd have more confidence to do so knowing that He called me to it. If it was to keep silent, I would listen (as you did) and pray knowing that the person would not be able to receive the truth at that moment, but perhaps later would be more open.

God knows your heart and how you longed to share truth with this man. Paul says that sometimes one plants, one waters, and God causes the growth.

After reading your post and the blessed comments here, I think I may post about this next week sometime (after my return) and link to your post since we all face this common predicament.

Many blessings, and thank you for your honesty.
Susan

Kathryn Magendie said...

But wait (and someone up there may have said this, but I didn't have time to read the othe rcomments)....you gave him such a GIFT! You LISTENED! the greatest gift of love of all . . .

sanjeet said...

I think it is those times that pass us buy that God uses to convict us and help move us along to the next moment, and then the next moment and then the next.
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