In September 2021, I was headed out west to meet up with my sister-in-law for a girls’ weekend. I rarely get to travel alone and was very much looking forward to navigating the fun game of flying solo—not having to keep track of anyone else and maybe getting some alone time to read that good book I had packed.
My first flight was uneventful and, thanks to COVID, pretty empty. I only had a short layover, but after they announced that it was time to board (a bit later than I expected), I took my place in line. I started talking to the people around me and discovered, to my horror, that somehow my worst fear had come true—I was at the wrong gate. I quickly thanked them and excused myself to figure out what had gone wrong.
My gate had changed without me realizing, and although my correct gate was only a few down from where I was and my plane had not yet left the gate, the plane door had been closed and they told me there was no way they could let me board once that door had been shut. I rather sheepishly walked to the ticket counter to figure out what to do next. The woman was incredibly kind and helpful and found me another flight that was leaving shortly—it required another layover, which meant I would be getting to my family several hours later than I was expecting, but it was the best she could do, so I thanked her and made my way to my next gate.
As I walked, I called my husband to laugh at myself and tell him what had happened. His response was, “There’s a reason you’re not on that plane, or there’s a reason you’re on this next plane.” I knew he was right, and with that comment he reminded me of God’s sovereignty over my entire day. So with disappointment but a changed perspective, I found my way to my next flight, sat in my window seat, pulled out my book and started reading.
The middle seat was empty, but there was a young man sitting in the aisle seat. We politely said hello to each other, and I noticed he was reading a book by Winston Churchill. I asked him about the book and said I also enjoy reading books by authors from previous centuries. He asked what I was reading, and I told him it was a book about a missionary to India. He immediately asked if I was a Christian, I said yes…and then he said the most shocking thing… “Great, I’ve been really interested in learning about Christianity. Do you mind if I ask you some questions?” My jaw must have hit the floor!
I’d had this conversation with God earlier that morning before I got on the plane: “I’m about to board a steel tube with a lot of people, some of whom don’t know you. I’m stuck there with them for a while, so help me to be courageous and tell them of you, I’m not great at starting the conversation, but if somebody would just ask—I can answer questions and tell them of your faithfulness in my life.”
And here God had me sitting next to a young man who just openly invited me to answer his questions about Christianity. Could he have made it any easier? Could he have answered that prayer any more perfectly? Not only was he allowing me to share his good news with a young, smart, inquisitive young man. He was also teaching me of his control over all things, his wisdom in all things, his care of my willing but weak heart, and his overwhelming goodness and faithfulness to spread the gospel in any place!
Vincent was that young man’s name, and I pray for him often. He had wonderful questions, and Christians he had met in college had paved the way for our conversation. They had been loving, kind, generous, and different from others. God was shining in his people, and Vincent was attracted to that difference, yet never got the opportunity to sit down and ask them the questions he was now asking me.
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)
Did I want to miss that second flight, or those extra hours I would have had with my dear family if I had arrived when I was “supposed” to? Absolutely not. But seeing God’s detailed care in my life and his compassion and concern for a complete stranger had my soul grinning ear to ear! His thoughts are not our thoughts, and his ways are not our ways. He is willing to inconvenience us in order to bring life-saving news to those he puts in our way.
We are living in a world full of people that God has created and cares for. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). You may be praying for a Vincent. You may be the one somebody is watching from a distance and noticing a difference. You may be the one that gets to answer questions. You may be the one that gets to witness their conversion. It’s by God’s grace we get to play any of these parts. But it’s his gospel, and he is the one working to bring people to him.
So be encouraged: he will answer your seemingly small, scared prayers, and he will help you, because after all, it is him that is doing all the growing in you and in those you encounter. And the next time things don’t go quite as you planned…I wonder what God is doing—it’s going to be good!