It had been an intense season of ministry and I knew I was behind with getting back in touch with meeting planners, e-mail, social media responses, with three endorsements for author friends, and with a writing deadline of my own. Why had I accepted the invitation to fly across the country from Tampa to Los Angeles for the television interview? I needed to be at home in my “writing cave” working on my looming deadline.
But it was too late to cancel. The interview was being taped for a program that would later air in the English speaking countries in the Pacific Rim (I am pictured on the left with the producer of the program). I had not traveled to that part of the world and at the time I said yes to the invitation, I thought I could squeeze in time for the trip. I knew this opportunity would give me a chance to minister via television to people I might never have the opportunity of speaking to in person. It seemed like a wise decision at the time, but I left for the airport reluctantly. To save time, I opted to get up at 3:30 a.m. for an early flight to Los Angeles, and I planned to return to Tamps on the “red-eye,” the overnight flight that would arrive at 5:30 a.m. the following day.
I had high energy for the five and a half hour outbound flight. Arriving in L.A., I rented a car and drove for an hour to the studio in Simi Valley. The interview went well and I sensed God’s sweet blessing on the taping with the charming host from Australia. With the show wrapped up, I said my goodbyes and began driving back to LAX. Ten minutes into the trip, I hit rush hour. For the next two hours I was in stop-and-go traffic, with rude drivers cutting me off. I made three wrong turns with the assistance of the GPS I paid extra to rent, and wanted to throw it out the window every time I heard a relaxed female voice say, “Recalculating.”
By the time I dropped the car off on “rental row,” rode the shuttle to the airport, waited in line through the TSA screening, and finally made it to my gate, I was frazzled, and not looking forward to the all night flight ahead of me. I opened my computer and turned to my Bible reading for the day. These words jumped off the page: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. (Matt. 11:28-30 MSG)
I felt tears welling up in my eyes. There was a time in my early years of ministry when doing God’s work was a joy and a privilege. When did it start feeling like so much work? When did I start viewing opportunities to share my faith with others as a burden instead of a privilege? I felt the dichotomy of needing to have the appearance of a Christian on fire with passion for God, but feeling like an ash heap on the inside. I still believed everything I spoke about to be truth, but the passion I once had for God was starting to feel more like an obligation.
As I read the scripture again, “…Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace,” I wondered what that would look like. I bowed my head and talked to God. “Lord, I’m tired. I’m about as worn out as I’ve ever been. Help me to get back the passion I once had and to relax in your “unforced rhythms of grace.” I had come to the fire and I sensed the Holy Spirit breathing fresh oxygen into my flagging passion.
It was finally time to board the plane. The flight attendant was friendly, a bright and shining light after a long day, and I enjoyed a brief exchange with her before settling into my window seat. Many hours later we landed in Tampa and I headed for home. That afternoon this note arrived in my e-mail box.
Dear Ms. Kent,
I had the pleasure of being your flight attendant during your flights to and from LAX yesterday. I was surprised to see you back on our evening flight and asked what you had done in the eleven hours we were in LA.
You told me you had done a TV interview. You radiated such grace and peace, I was compelled to Google you. I was surprised to see the challenges you and your family have been through. I do wish you all the wonderful things God has provided and will continue to provide to your family. I hope to see you on another flight soon.
The note surprised me. So soon after I had asked God to warm my cold heart and teach me how to experience “the unforced rhythms of grace,” a flight attendant noticed “a little spark of holy fire” on my face and took the time to write her observation.
I knew in that moment that God uses the people around us to fuel the flame within us, to stoke the fire, and remind us that the journey is worth the effort, and that our decision to be God’s woman in this world really does matter—a lot!
Question: How has God surprised you when you were tired or discouraged?