Ask anyone in my family, I’m a cheap date. Even when Doug and I were dating… a Friday night movie was risky. After a full and hectic work week, I’d settle into that comfy seat. As if the cabin pressure just released its hypnotizing elixir, my body relaxed. If a movie’s plot couldn’t hold up through an inevitable ten, maybe twenty minute nap, at some point, it had no chance.
Even if a gripping movie does hold my attention enough to stay awake, my memory of it won’t last beyond Tuesday. There was the time when I committed to find a Redbox rental that in some way would appeal to each of my clan in hopes of nice family movie night. (This I might add, is a daunting proposition) I go for romantic comedy, PG13. Becca goes for the female heroine with some fantasy thrown in. And Ian and Doug have a stomach for violence that I just can’t endure. I came home with what I deemed a universal pick. And alas, we had seen it just two weeks prior. Ahhh, really, I questioned?
A Few Good Men
With the help of repetition there are certain scenes even I have emblazoned on my memory. Doug will stop his channel surf to catch a scene that he can already quote verbatim — a scene he has probably watched hundreds if not thousands of times. Take A Few Good Men, for example.
In the dramatic closing courtroom scene a young and inexperienced Lt Dan Kaffee, (Tom Cruise) questions Colonel Jessup, (Jack Nicolson) a decorated infantry officer with an illustrious career and a general’s star in his future. From the start, it’s obvious that Jessup is annoyed to even be called to the stand.
Throughout the back and forth the viewer is captivated by Jessup’s confidence. But slowly, the scene takes a brilliant twist when Jessup’s indignation rises to a point of no return. It’s an amazing example of how an over-confident, seasoned, this is how it will go demeanor can completely unravel.
On my recent trip, in the Lisbon Portugal airport, powerless and forlorn, my non-movie mind drifted to Colonel Jessup. I needed his bad-ass confidence.
Next Stop Morrocco
Leaving Portugal, Becca and I splurged with an Uber to the airport, forgoing the long hilly walk along cobble-stoned streets to a packed metro. In the Lisbon airport with plenty of time, and accesible outlets to charge our phones, the morning had been especially smooth. We lined up to board the budget but thankfully on time Ryan Air to Marrakech.
Since Ryan Air charges extra for everything, my small roller bag required priority check in. With my ticket scanned, I waited for Becca. I watched the robotic process of scanning each passenger’s boarding pass. Instead of a nice ding like all of the rest Becca’s boarding pass caused an offensive buzz. Repositioned and rescanned, it buzzed again. The woman looked puzzled. Then, very matter-of- factly said, “step aside, you may not board, your passport is not valid.”
A month or so prior in the Barcelona metro Becca was the victim of the common pickpocket scam when her US Passport and credit card was stolen. It was a frantic few days. But with the help of her sweet house mom, Becca recovered. Together, they reported it to the police and replaced her passport at the US Consulate in Madrid. Apparently a full-fledged US passport takes 4-6 weeks. In the meantime, Becca was given an “emergency passport” with little additional instruction. She’d have to pick up her permanent passport before she returned to the US in late May.
On this day, Becca’s emergency US passport was flagged as unacceptable to enter Morrocco and our fate rested with a grumpy overworked Ryan Air employee.
“That can’t be!” I blurted. “It’s a legitimate emergency US passport. We checked in online. It was accepted. You sold her the ticket. You assigned her a seat. You can’t do this.” The woman curtly asked Becca to step aside while she checked in the other dinging passengers.
In that moment, I didn’t recognize my daughter. My wide-eyed once naive college student daughter had a steely confidence I hadn’t seen before. They have to let us fly mom, don’t worry she said. We’ll stand right here. Even though the attendant asked us to leave the jetway, we held our ground and refused to budge. Together we had courage. With her by my side I felt like shouting with all the spittle I could muster….Ryan Air woman… “you’re messin’ with the wrong marines!”
Becca googled “rules about emergency passport”. With somewhat of a language barrier we pointed to some website forum that said an emergency passport is as good as the real one. (as if that had any authority)
Usually able to think fast on my feet, I had nothing left. My mind wandered to how this monkey wrench would ruin everything. “Don’t think that mom. They have to let us fly.” I threw up a foxhole prayer and refused to even look the direction of the agents who were reading the fine print and seeking additional guidance by phone.
With a now empty gate, we stood there frozen. Stress was a ten. The grumpy woman still on hold, said to another agent in a hushed voice, “should I let them board?” With that hopeful, barely audible question, and without waiting for clarification, I grabbed Becca’s arm and said, “c’mon, she said we could board.” Becca’s eyes got big but she didn’t question me. We walked down the jetway briskly without looking back. Half expecting to be stopped, we weren’t.
It worked. Soon settled in our seats, hearts racing, I couldn’t believe it. The flight attendants greeted us warmly as we melded with all the other passengers. Phew! Disaster averted!
We made it, but…
The incident got me to thinking. What if, the agent refused to allow Becca to board? What if, we were stuck in Lisbon, with no ability to fly out? What if, we were arrested or fined or some other character damaging consequence. As much as I like to think we influenced the outcome, I wonder. Did we? Becca’s assured confidence that “they have to let us fly” was helpful self-talk, but did it change anything?
Control is Elusive
As my breathing slowly began to regulate, I rehashed the entire incident. I thought about all the painstaking hours of planning –the money, time and energy I invested to make our trip extraordinary. Admiring my detailed spreadsheet and confirmation notes saved in Evernote, my efforts were exemplary. And in a blink the last five days of our trip were nearly obliterated. And it was completely out of my control.
In that moment, I was thankful for the plane ride. I needed time with the Lord. I needed time to process what had just happened. I needed time to hear a word from Him.
Perspective Changes Everything
Through the lens of this almost didn’t happen, everything changed. I saw the near miss as a gift from above. Humbled and full of gratitude for His obvious intervention, I felt small. Small but loved and cared for.
Job 38:4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.”
1 Peter 5:6,7 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Psalm 73 (A great chapter to remember His perspective)
Life is precarious
Life is precarious. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to be made aware of that truth. During the flight to Marrakech, God did just that. God adjusted my vision. God reminded me of His control over all of it, not just this trip.
As you can probably imagine, the final five days were spectacular. My rose colored glasses made it easy to overlook the the hard bed, our limited cash, a disrupted agenda due to Ramadan. I enjoyed a new freedom to be present in the precariousness of the day. With opened hands and a softened heart I gave up control. And my experience was richer because I did!
Dear Father thank you for your kindness to me. Thank you for your gift of a fresh perspective. Thank you for your grace and mercy when I become desperate to control my circumstances.
What was I thinking? Colonel Jessup was NOT an ideal role model. His approach to fight against his perception of injustice may have been appealing. But in the end, in spite of his admirable confidence, he met his demise. Control does that.
Moral of the Story
Home in Albuquerque, more introspective, while de-installing Ian’s art show, the thought occurred to me. Try as we might, we don’t get to pick the painting that is our lives. We do, however, get some say as to how that painting is framed. We decide how we embrace it, how we react to it, how we learn from it. And that makes all the difference. The way I see it, the frame gives structure and meaning to the painting of our life. The frame completes the piece. And together, God’s painting with our thoughtfully crafted frame is indeed a masterpiece.