The Shoe on the Other Foot

We sure aren’t overdoing it in the witnessing department. How many times has someone offered you a gospel tract? I can count the occasions its happened to me on one hand. And how many times has someone initiated a conversation about spiritual things with me? Once! And she was a Mormon! I’ve flown close to three million miles all over the world. And been witnessed to just once.

It was on a flight up the east coast, I don’t remember exactly where from and to, but I had changed planes in Charlotte and now we were heading north. When the woman started talking to me about her Mormonism, I began to press her about the way of salvation. Like a hundred other religions, she thought it all came down to doing the best you can.

“So you don’t believe in a perfect God? Yours is just a pretty good God who settles for less than perfection?”

I had tried this approach before, and at this point they usually said something like: “Well, your works aren’t perfect!”

Then I would respond with: “But I’m not counting on my works to get me to heaven. I’m trusting in one perfectly finished work, the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary, which evidently satisfied God; He proved that by raising His Son from the dead and then exalting Him to the highest place in the universe.”

But the conversation in the plane didn’t go that way. Instead the woman said: “Even if my religion isn’t right, I’m not going to change. I’m happy with it. I like how it gives my kids a safe environment with their dances and other activities…”

Just at that moment the plane dropped, I think, several hundred feet straight down. CAT they call it—clear air turbulence. Drinks went flying. Several people screamed. The stewardess staggered into the folk in the row ahead of us.

But the wild ride wasn’t over. It was just beginning. The plane slewed left then right, up and then down. It shuddered like a coffee addict at sunrise. Things and people were coming unglued. I could hear the pilot trying a variety of altitudes to find smooth air, but there was none to be found. I’ve had some wild rides, especially in some small planes over the Rockies, but this won first prize (with one exception—when we hit a wind shear over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Colorado and dropped 2,000 feet straight down towards Mount Blanca, the range’s highest peak, in a four-seater; I thought I was going Home that day).

The woman beside me was apoplectic. She said through clenched teeth, “Would you mind if I held your hand?” She meant could she apply a vise-like death grip with both hands. Her eyes literally bulged out from her face which was drained of all color. Every jolt brought new exclamations from between gritted teeth.

After twenty or thirty minutes, we finally got past the worst of it. The poor Mormon lay back in her seat and expelled a long breath. She was totally spent.

“You know what was just happening, don’t you!” I said to her with a smile. Silence. She was not yet close to being in a smiling mood. “God just gave us a little experiment. It’s easy to spout ideas when everything is going smoothly in life, but when the rough times come, then we suddenly find out what’s real. For me, if the plane went down, I know I’d go up. It would actually be the best case scenario for me. But I noticed you weren’t thinking that way at all, were you. You were terrified. Know why? Because it does matter if what you believe is true or not.”

I could see she was trying to process this. “The Lord,” I added, “must love you a great deal to put this little display of His power on for you. It’s like the story of the disciples in the boat. When it got stormy, they wondered if Jesus cared about them. They cried out in their terror, ‘Don’t You care that we perish?’ But Jesus does care—cares so much He died for you. I hope you never forget that.”

“I certainly won’t forget this ride,” she said with a wry smile.

“No, and I hope you remember that the Lord Jesus wants you to take Him on board by trusting in His finished work at Calvary. Then, the next time you’ll be able to relax in His arms because, even if the plane goes down, it’s well with your soul.”

As we got off the plane, she shook my hand, thanked me for caring for her, and said it had been a life-changing conversation. I don’t exactly know what she meant, but hope she was trusting now in the One who still controls the winds.