“From the Negev, they continued traveling by stages toward Bethel,
and they pitched their tents between Bethel and Ai, where they had
camped before. This was the same place where Abram had built the
altar, and there he worshiped the Lord again.” (Genesis 13:3-4)
While speaking at an international gathering, I missed several opportunities to exalt Jesus because I was afraid. I was unsure as to what was considered appropriate participation for a newcomer at such a prestigious gathering. I had been informed by former attendees that evangelical Christians were viewed with great skepticism; therefore, my instructions were not to further the negative perception by saying something “stupid.” To make sure I complied with their advice, I just didn’t say anything at all.
While compliance seemed the best course at the time, it later caused me great misery. I desperately wished to have a “do over.”
On my way to my next engagement, as I dozed on the plane, even my unconscious thoughts seemed nightmarish. I just couldn’t shake the sick feeling of shame that engulfed me because of my failure during the week. I had confessed my sin and returned to the cross for cleansing many times during the past thirty-six hours but seemed to get no relief from the guilt and pain.
I became aware of a famous couple seated about ten rows in front of me. They were hard to miss because everyone around me was pointing and giggling and straining to catch a glimpse of them. I tried to block out what was going on around me, and just wallowed in my own misery and guilt.
As we neared our destination, the comments of those around me grew louder. The ogling of the famous couple had increased. Then the thoughts began to come: I wonder if everyone who meets them either grovels at their feet or giggles in their faces or tries to take advantage of them in some way. I wonder if anyone has ever shared the gospel with them.
As those thoughts lingered, I also remembered seeing a television special about the woman in the celebrity couple before I had left the States. She had led a very wicked, immoral life. As I was wishing she could know the Savior, His distinct soft voice whispered in my heart, Anne, why do you think you’re on this plane? Is it random coincidence? Or could it be My divine arrangement? You know the gospel. Why don’t you share it with them?
My stomach turned over and fear gripped my pounding heart. Not me! I wanted to shout. I’m a failure!
But I was on the plane, and I did know the gospel, and hadn’t I just been wallowing in guilt for having missed opportunities that very week?
Just as I started to tell the Lord I would speak to them, the pilot announced we were beginning our descent. We were to remain seated with our seatbelts fastened. Breathing a deep sigh of relief, I relaxed and prayed, “Well, Lord, You know I would have done it, but now there’s no time. If I get up now, the flight attendant will tell me to sit down and I’ll cause a scene. If You had just given me some time, I would have done it.”
Then, after a moment’s pause, I added, “And even now, if You give me the time, I’ll do it.”
No sooner had I told the Lord that I would do it than the pilot came back on the intercom. He said that our plane had been put into a holding pattern, and we would be circling for ten minutes. Before I could have another fearful thought, I unsnapped my seat belt, walked up the aisle, and straight into the lavatory!
My knees were knocking, my heart was beating, and then the entire plane started lurching, as though it too felt my panic. As I held on to the safety handles, the warning light flashed, instructing all passengers to take their seats and buckle their seat belts. I told the Lord how embarrassed He and I would be if the plane crashed with me in the lavatory! But I also told Him I was going to stay in the bathroom as long as it took for the plane to settle down, and then I would go speak to the couple.
The plane immediately became calm and the flight smoothed out. I opened the door, took two long strides to the front row where the young couple was sitting, crouched down beside the woman who was seated on the aisle, and asked if I could speak with her. Her eyes widened as she looked at me, but she nodded yes.
As I shared the gospel in a nutshell, her beautiful eyes softened, and I knew she was listening intently. My heart was calm, my manner was gentle, my words were confident, and I was actually filled to overflowing with an awareness of God’s love for her.
I wish I could report that she prayed to receive Christ. Or that she promised to begin reading her Bible. All I know is that she thanked me softly. But I also knew I had turned the corner. I had reversed the downward spiral of my failure. I had rebuilt my altar once again in front of the Canaanites, and it felt good!
Do you want to start all over again, too? Then would you tell God about your sin and failure? God is so gracious and merciful to sinners. And He has never turned away anyone who comes to Him in humble repentance at the foot of the cross.
“God, I’m so sorry! I’ve made a mess. I just want to come back to You. I want to get right with You. Thank You for receiving me. Thank You for taking my sin and failure to the cross. Thank You for giving me new opportunities to exalt Christ. Amen.”