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On A Plane To Nowhere

Don's Journey

I am presently in the Friendly Skies at about 30,000 feet. The journey from Baltimore to Denver is about three-and-a-half hours, then about two on to Missoula. For the next week I will enjoy the Big Sky with my eldest sister and her husband. Today marks their fourteenth anniversary. As she wrote, it is hard to believe they have been married this long. This is my sister’s second marriage. Her first marriage seems like another lifetime ago to me. A few years before she and her present husband were married, she endured a very disappointing divorce. She had been married for many years and waking up single one day was about as traumatic as it gets. How could this be possible? Where did she go wrong? Why me? This stuff happens to other people.

I remember our discussions. Her loneliness was like London Fog on a dreary night, except it lasted for a long, long time. I remember wondering if she would ever get over it. Of course, her little brother was more than a little angry about how the separation all went down, but then I was not left alone as an older adult looking forward to retirement bliss, so my life went forward pretty much normal in fairly short order. The tears, the desperation in her voice, the oppressive sadness. All I could do was listen, give an occasional bit of brotherly advice, and do my best to let her know I would be there for her. She had always been there for me.

During my rocky younger years, I too had experienced divorce. Though I’ll never forget the pain, I was young, and my marriage had not lasted so long. It would be easier for me to reset, though it was the last thing I wanted to do. My sister had listened also to my inebriated rants and immature temper. Now it was time to offer a bit of repayment for always being there for me.

I sometimes thought, as did she, that her anguish would never end and hope for a bright future was not even worth considering. I was wrong. I suppose she was wrong too. There was hope and hope, once restored, would be realized. Life, a good life, would go forward, and now she has enjoyed many more years of marital enjoyment. Her marriage to Dave finally landed her in Big Sky Country, with a new family and friends and purpose. In fact, her ex-husband, one of my great mentors in life, is now also remarried and they are all good friends. Go figure! Rather than losing everything, she actually kind of gained on several fronts, although I am thoroughly convinced she would not have chosen this path to get there.

I’ll get off the plane late this evening in Missoula, then spend the night before the two-and-half-hour trek to their cabin in the middle of nowhere. I’m trying to have high hopes. I’m not going to visit my sister to figure out a divorce, though I suppose death is sort of like divorce, except it is quite certain that I will not see Gail again in this life. It actually feels like only half of me is traveling. The man next to me is drinking gin and tonic and he is not nearly as beautiful as my wife. She is usually the one sitting next to the window. She always liked looking out at the sights. I like putting my leg in the aisle better than seeing the sights on a long flight. Though there are people all around me, I feel kind of like I’m in my own world. Actually, I am.

I am hoping to find some true relaxation and respite, and maybe even some answers to questions I doubt that I am presently asking. Some of the best answers in life seem to reveal themselves to questions we were not really asking. There are many times when we don’t ask the right questions, but answers show up anyway. We think, “Oh, I never even thought of that.” I am also desperately hoping God will show up for me. Not that I am so naïve as to think that He is not already there, but you know what I mean. I am not sure what that would look like, but I’m sure He can figure it out. And, if He doesn’t “show up,” I think I’ll just go on anyway. I’ve done this long enough to know that His silence is not silence, so it is best to get yourself into a mental and spiritual state to listen carefully. Certainly, one of the most profound statements in Scripture is that God appeared in a “still small voice.” Most of us prefer the thunder and lighting, wind and noise - such powerful things like that you know. I’ve certainly learned that “healers” prefer those manifestations of the Other, far more than the still small voice. Power is not defined by volume or size . . . I digress . . .

Will God show up? I suspect He will, but I’d better be listening well. If not, I think perhaps I will miss it. Oh, how many times I’ve missed the power and glory of God because I thought of it as something entirely as it is not, or, because I was talking when I should have been listening. Perhaps the silence of Montana will speak. If it does, I will let you know. Of one thing I am certain, if my sister is there, God will show up. He always does, but little brothers are not always so smart.

I take heart in that I truly wondered how my sister’s life would turn out. Some days after her divorce I felt as if it would never amount to much. But God quietly had other plans which unfolded slowly like a sunrise. (I might add that perhaps the most comically amazing thing about their marriage is that her current husband set her up with her first husband while they were in high school. Though I am convinced that God is not a proponent of divorce, He knows the human heart well enough to know that He will need to make up for many of our mistakes and does so in such a marvelous manner! Both couples have enjoyed different marriages for many years now. His mercy and grace knows no bounds.)

So, there you have it, a sad sixty-four-year-old pastor on a plane to nowhere who is trying to wait patiently for a map that tells him which direction his next baby-step should go. It surprises me that I am even looking for a map and willing to take a step. I don’t want to take another step without you Gail, but I know what you would want. I’m on my way to my sister’s in Montana.