The God of Gate H1

You wake up early and lug your luggage downstairs to wait for your Uber driver. Mild anxiety hangs in the air like the smell of last night’s burnt coffee. Will he arrive? Almost to the minute of his scheduled arrival at 6:20, he pulls up in his new white CRV and helps you load your bags. You heave a sigh of relief. But then anxiety creeps back into your thoughts. En route you start to second guess whether your toiletries bag made it into your checked suitcase. You ask your wife. She doesn’t remember specifically. You wonder what you should do. Before the Uber driver makes it to the interstate, you ask him to stop so you can make sure you didn’t forget something. He obliges, and you hop out and run around to the back of the CRV. You unzip your oversized black luggage, and to your relief, your small green toiletries bag with the broken zipper is stowed away beneath clothes and a pair of shoes. You hope you haven’t forgotten anything else. The driver pulls up to Terminal 2 and helps you get your bags out of the back. There’s an outside check-in area with a line quite a bit shorter than the inside line, and you’re thankful that it’s unusually warm for January. You wait. Will they get snippy? Will they say your carry-on is too big, that it doesn’t fit in their little metal measuring box? It’s your turn. A man checks you in. He even smiles. With no questions asked, he hands you your boarding passes. You made it through. Onward and forward. You make your way inside the terminal and double check the screens. Yup. Gate H1. Just like the guy at the check-in said. You follow the signs to the security checkpoint. The line is long but moving. You’re expecting disaster to strike at any moment. When you finally make it up to the security checkpoint, an older gentleman checks your passports and boarding passes and waves you through. You make your way over to one of the many x-ray machine and begin to get undressed. At least it feels that way. At least your wearing sweatpants. (No belt, you see. By now, you’re a professional.) What if you’re lucky enough to be chosen for additional screening? What if they question you? What if you forgot to take something out of your pocket? It’s your turn to go through the magical body scan machines. You assume the position. You feel exposed. Demeaned. Scrutinized. Untrusted. You get waved through. Somehow you passed, though you feel like you were never entirely sure what you were being tested over. You get redressed on the other side. Another small victory is yours. You check another screen. Flight info looks good. After filling up your water bottles and a bathroom stop, you find your seats at good old Gate H1. But you’ve flown enough to know that you’re still not out of the woods. Disaster looms on the horizon like a pregnant storm cloud. You’re just waiting for it to burst. Such an expectation has become an old habit. You know all the things that could go wrong, and you know that there are just as many things that you could never imagine that could go wrong, and so many things have gone wrong in the past. You find yourself living on the edge, expecting something—anything—to explode without the slightest warning. Your old friend anxiety taps you on the shoulder again, his snakelike words sounding especially convincing today. It’s then, while you’re sitting at your seat and worrying up a storm, that someone else taps you on your other shoulder. “Hey,” another voice says. It’s a still voice, a confident one. You know it well, too, though it seems anxiety’s voice never fails to speak so much more loudly. Then the weight of all those nice-sounding ideas you say you believe in comes pressing in on you. “You see this gate, Gate H1? It’s mine,” the voice says. “I’m the sovereign God over every last passenger and crew member and event and happening both here and everywhere. Not an atom at Gate H1 or in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport or on this entire planet earth vibrates apart from my direct, involved, planned determination and approval. Yes, you’re right. Crazy things happen. Many of them have to do with airports and planes. But I’m here, even now. I’m God even now. Gate H1 is mine.” And your heart begins to lift. “Yeah, but….” But your yeah-but’s somehow fall flat. He’s here, too, isn’t he? you think. You look around at the sea of humanity waiting to board. Do they know it? Do you? Like do you really know at the deepest and most profound level of your being that literally everything is his and that he’s as present at Gate H1 as he is at a gathering of his beloved body? Your wife boards first because you weren’t seated together and she’s in boarding zone 2 but you’re in zone 3. Another wave of your old friend anxiety washes over you. What if there’s not any more space in the overhead compartments by the time you board? What if everyone gets seated only to find out there’s a delay due to some technical malfunction and you have to sit on the tarmac for two hours? You wait for zone 3 to be called, and when it is, you get in line. The lady scans your boarding pass. Another small victory. You walk down the jetway. Anxiety follows in close behind you. You faintly hear another whisper, “I am with you.” Your throat constricts. You find your seat. There’s overhead storage space to spare. You take your window seat and look back three rows to where your wife is sitting. A little boy maybe three years old takes the middle seat next to you, and his mother sits next to him on the aisle. The flight attendants begin their demonstration routine. You notice how cool they are, how easily the words roll off the tongue of the flight attendant over the speaker system. “In the event of a water landing….” You’ve heard that phrase countless times before, but today it seems to pack a punch. Uh, excuse me? A water landing? She might as well have said, “In case of a zombie apocalypse….” If you really think about it, you conclude they’ve got to be equally terrifying. You’re pretty sure you could outrun a zombie, but you know there’s not much you can do when your plane is hurtling toward the ground at hundreds of miles per hour. Scenes of chaos paint themselves with exquisite detail in your mind’s eye: The multi-ton jet you’re on is floating (more like sinking) on some obscure body of water. People are screaming and pushing each other toward the exits. Water starts rushing in as they pop the emergency exits. Where did she say my life vest was stored? You look at the little boy sitting next to you, seatbelt fastened, a blanket over his little legs. “Do you want to hold Mr. Zebra while we take off?” his mother asks him. “Mr. Zebra?” he parrots. You know the boy is worth more than the entire world to his mother. And if this plane goes down, you begin thinking through what you’d do. How would you help him? Could you even do so? “It’s mine. Remember?” the voice says. “Every last turbulence-causing atom at 30,000 feet trembles at my voice.” You can’t help but tremble, too. Not because of your old friend anxiety but because there’s something even more terrifying and equally wonderful to tremble at: God. And just like it’s supposed to, your bad fear evaporates in the heat of a much deeper, much more glorious kind of fear: the fear of the Maker of atmospheres and bodies of water. “Even then, I won’t leave your side,” he says. The mother tells her son, “We’re going to go much faster than we’ve ever gone to take off.” You sit on the runway and wait for the moment when the pilot pushes that lever-thingy forward, causing the engines to roar to full power. The moment comes. The little boy looks past you out the window, eyes wide. “We’re flying,” the mother says as soon as we’re airborne. “Flying?” his little voice echoes. Up and up you go. Then it happens. You split the clouds and break free from the domain of gloomy grays. In a moment you find yourself soaring above a dense cotton candy sea illuminated orange beneath a blazing sun. “It’s mine,” the voice whispers again. “All mine. And you are, too.” So you do the only thing you know to do. You take out your computer and begin typing, desperately trying to capture in words the voice that holds you and the airplane up. And even more important, you try with all your might to believe.

10 thoughts on “The God of Gate H1

  1. Lol…totally understand. I flew yesterday and everything you say I identify with! I always wonder how an airplane can be so quickly exited in an emergency since it takes so long to embark and debarked! Honestly, I end up doing a resurrender of my heart and life to the Lord! By giving my life, and then my certain death trapped in a crashing plane, I am able to relax and enjoy the flight….when I fly back to Texas Monday, I’m sure it will all be similar, again…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is a good policy to abide by, Jeff! Every day is gift, and even if this is our last day, it’s the most comforting thought that we won’t walk it alone. Grace on your travels on Monday 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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