My fifteen year old daughter and I drove in silence in the early morning darkness, the windshield wipers scraping noisily across the windshield. I wasn’t sure why we were driving to the airport, but I wasn’t ready to give up yet. Six hours earlier, I received a phone call from American Airlines, the perky automated computer lady happily telling me that our 7am Friday morning flight had been cancelled. She then seemed so pleased to tell me that our flight had been rescheduled for Saturday morning instead. I heard sniffling next to me and handed my daughter a tissue, sleepily asking, “Your allergies bad this morning?” She looked at me, trying to smile as tears streamed down her sweet face. I reached over and squeezed her arm, and then just squeezed it again.
The weekend had promised to be special. I was receiving an award at my high school on Friday night and the event was sandwiched in between my sister’s 50th birthday and Mother’s Day. My niece and nephew were both going to be in town, and Hannah and I were so excited about all of it. We hadn’t been to Oklahoma in almost two years, and it was Hannah’s turn to travel with me. Her older and younger sisters had already enjoyed weekend trips like this, and we were both thrilled that it worked out for us to go.
Until our flight got cancelled.
I was up all night. First on “hold” with the airlines and then talking to different agents, trying to figure out a way to get to Tulsa by Friday night. I was willing to fly into Oklahoma City or Little Rock or anywhere that would allow me to rent a car and drive the distance in time for the awards banquet. Horrible weather had cancelled numerous flights the night before and the domino effect was wreaking havoc on the Friday schedules. The best the airline could do was to get me to Tulsa by Saturday at noon, allowing me a grand total of twelve hours with my family. As a last ditch effort, Hannah and I jumped in the car at 4:30am to see if we could fly standby on one of the 6am flights. By the time we reached the counter, the ticket agent sadly shook his head no and sent us on our way.
As my daughter quietly cried in the seat next to me, I just wondered what the point of all of this was. My mind was processing a lot of thoughts about hope and excitement, expectations and disappointments. I knew this wasn’t the end of the world and that I needed to keep all of this in perspective, but I sure was disappointed and deeply saddened that I wasn’t going to see my family.
In the silence, my mind began rabbit trailing on as many topics as possible. I thought about how Hannah’s school was wearing red that day to stand with the moms of the 267 girls who had been kidnapped in Nigeria. I thought about all of the pain those moms were carrying and how many of them would do anything to be sitting in a car next to their daughter on the morning of a canceled flight. I squeezed Hannah’s arm again.
Then I returned to my rabbit trails.
My oldest daughter took her AP English test last week. We arrived at school early, she easily walked through the doors, enjoyed a delicious breakfast prepared by her teacher and a goodie bag of candy during break. Emily said she felt like she did well on the test, went home after school with a friend, and ate Chipotle for dinner.
On April 14th, Mothers in Nigeria sent their daughters to take their final exams under very different circumstances and now may never see them again. My mind can’t even comprehend something this tragic. The main concern I have during my daughters’ final exams is how to minimize their stress while making sure they have plenty of snacks. We all take the gift and freedom to be educated for granted.
In the middle of the night as I searched for another way to get to Tulsa, I prayed that God would help me. As I think about the missing girls, I plead with God to help them as well. I am not always sure what to do with His silence or His answers.
In John 11, Mary’s brother Lazarus died. Mary and her sister Martha had asked Jesus to come and help, but he didn’t. He waited. Mary was the same woman who had publicly washed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and her hair. She obviously had a close connection and love for him to be so vulnerable. While others completely judged her, Jesus acknowledged the depth of her love.
After Lazurus died, John 11 says that Jesus finally traveled to Judea to see Mary and Martha. “When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.” I never noticed this before and just wondered why she didn’t go out to see Jesus. Was she deeply hurt at His lack of action? Was she so disappointed at His apparent indifference that she just wasn’t ready to face Him? Was she too afraid of the anger she was feeling and just decided to sit tight for a bit? I wonder if she might have felt a little bit like I feel sometimes when I just feel like God might not care enough to answer my prayers.
As soon as Jesus asked to see Mary though, she quickly ran out to see him. She couldn’t help herself. She loved him.
The first thing out of Mary’s mouth is “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” I don’t really hear anger or disrespect in her voice, but I am comforted by her honesty and willingness to tell Jesus how she feels about his late arrival. I hear the depth of her heart, her pain and her longing. Jesus doesn’t lash out at Mary’s response. He doesn’t lecture her or explain anything to her. In fact, it is right around this time that He weeps. He gets it.
Mary didn’t know Jesus was going to resurrect her brother. I don’t know if anyone is going to rescue the Nigerian girls. We wait with longing and worry and grief and pray that Jesus will show up. And even though my cancelled flight pales in comparison to this tragedy in Nigeria, I can still nod with my oldest daughter who, when I returned home on Friday morning, hugged me and said, “I am really sorry about your trip, Mom. There are just some things I will never really understand.”
The mystery of pain and suffering cannot be wrapped up with a nice red ribbon and placed on display for all to see. As I wrestle today with disappointment and longing, I cling to Mary’s honesty and Jesus’ willingness to allow it. It allows me to not “stay at home,” but to “quickly get up and go out” to see Jesus instead. And that is enough for me today.