Excuse me, are you a pastor?

This post originally appeared on my Facebook page and sort of went viral. I decided to post it here for my readers who don’t follow me on Facebook as well. Blessings.

“Excuse me, are you a pastor?”

That question has always bothered me, especially when it comes out of the blue. I never know the motives behind the people who ask it, and I still don’t know what prompted a random woman in the airport to ask me that question. But for some reason, in the middle of the night, in an airport, as I tried to eat my dinner, there it was.

I was feeling grouchy yesterday as a day full of excitement and weeks of planning continued to fall apart all around me. It started with a rental car getting canceled, with no options to rebook. What was supposed to be a fun drive (and anyone who knows me knows I love road trips) turned into a last minute flight paired with a friend’s kindness to pick me up and drive me to my destination.

Everything started well. I had a fine morning, visited with friends, played my favorite new guitar, and talked with my wife as she dropped me off at the airport. Terrific lunch, read a book as I waited for my flight. And then something delayed our ability to take off on time. Once we boarded we were informed that severe weather was causing us to be rerouted around the storm. Instead of an hour layover in Chicago, our new path around the storm put us on the ground 10 minutes after my connecting flight was in the sky.

No worries, the flight attendant informed us, as we had already been rebooked on a flight that would take off about an hour after we landed. Upon landing in Chicago, we learned that that flight was delayed, and we were rebooked on another flight at 5pm. Then another at 7. Then at 9. Then at 11. Then 1am. Then 3am. And finally, canceled.

Did I mention I was grouchy? As much as I wanted to ignore this stranger in the Chicago airport, something made me respond in the affirmative. Not knowing what this woman’s motives were, I was relieved somewhat when she replied, “Thank God!” and sat down at the table next to mine. Over the next 45 minutes, she unloaded a lot of baggage she had been carrying (no pun intended) and how she had been struggling with her faith since moving to Chicago. She really needed to talk to someone, and I guess I and the other random stranger sitting at our row of tables fit the bill.

I still have no idea why she asked me that question, but I was able to use my gifts to help this weary traveler make a plan to return to church this Sunday. I then proceeded to customer service and stood in the never ending line behind all the angry and sleepy people in the wee hours of the morning who would now spend their night trying to sleep in the airport.

And then it happened again. This time, a lady much younger than me, tears streaming down her face, asking what she should do. She had been estranged from her family for some time and had made arrangements to fly cross-country to visit them and make amends. And now the welcome home plans and meetings looked like they might not happen because a flight had been canceled. While waiting in line to receive complimentary blankets and tooth paste, we visited about life, canceled flights, relationships, and a few minutes later she thanked me for being “the only kind and decent human I have spoken to all week.”

Did I mention I was grouchy? Well, I had been, but not so much any more. The next was a young man trying to get home and was frustrated that he couldn’t reserve a rental car (tell me about it brother), a woman next to me on the flight to the next city who was troubled while reading about the Holocost, and then a kind stranger who invited me to cut in front of them in the breakfast line.

As I get ready to board my next flight that will arrive at my original destination 20 hours behind schedule, I wonder who God will put in my path this time.

I don’t share this story to pat myself on the back, nor to encourage air travel or rental car use (did I mention I was…nevermind). But I encourage you to be who God has called you to be in the places he has placed you. Our Christian life does not exist solely within the walls of the church building. And regardless of if we are at work, at home, in a Bible class, or trying to sleep on the world’s most uncomfortable airport seating (looking at you, O’Hare International), we’re still called to be representatives of Christ and His Kingdom wherever we go.

Now, I wonder who God will put in your path this time?

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

1 Peter 3:15-16 NIV

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