Beginning as an analyst and researcher, little did I know that God’s plan would open the door to helping readers and listeners understand the most important things about the most important people in their lives. What a privilege!
For years now, as an author and speaker I’ve been used to the quirks of life on the road. But last week’s coast-to-coast adventure to speak at a business event, has to have broken some sort of comical record for seeing how many things can go wrong in one trip without actually cancelling the trip. You know those days where you feel like it might be one giant test to see how many of your buttons can be pushed before you explode? Well, that’s sure what I thought. And it almost fooled me into missing one of the most powerful God-moments I’ve seen in years.
A horrible, no good, very bad day.
I was fine when I kissed my kids and hubby and set off at 7:00 am, which would get me to the airport, parked, and through security for a conference call at 8:00 and a flight at 9:50 am. Lots of margin time at the airport; just the way I like it.
Then halfway to the airport, I hear the traffic report. The DJ basically says, “Shaunti, the highway you’re on is closed for a bad accident that shut down all lanes–and you just passed the last exit where you could have turned around.” I send up a frantic prayer, Lord, help. I cancel my conference call.
Half an hour later, finally on a different highway (packed with overflow from the first one) came the realization that I didn’t yet have the registration needed to use the new fast lanes, which were speeding merrily by as I sat in stop-and-go traffic. Then came nearly running out of gas and picking the one gas-station exit that didn’t have a return onto the highway. Crawling along on an access road, trapped, nowhere close to getting back on the highway, I pray frantically for the Lord to get me to the airport in time. But as the minutes speed by, I start to wonder… Lord, are you trying to keep me from getting on this plane? Is this the enemy? Or is this just a confluence of errors, and a chance to see whether I can handle them with grace?
At least I would be able to park quickly. Frequent travelers at the Atlanta airport know about what my assistant calls the double-top-secret parking lot that is much closer to the terminal. And no, I’m not going to tell you where it is.
One hitch. When I finally speed frantically onto the airport property, the double-top-secret parking lot is full. So is the regular lot. The clock is ticking toward 9 a.m. as I sadly conclude that my only choice is the Outer Mongolia parking lots that require a fleet of drivers to shuttle unlucky parkers back and forth. Our shuttle driver turns out to be a sweet, friendly guy, but he moves slower than my newest niece can crawl, and by the time he finishes chatting with the guys in the back of the shuttle bus and starts to drive away, I’m feeling neither sweet nor friendly. Lord, help me have grace here. It’s not his fault that I’m late. It’s in your hands. If the frequent-traveler security line is long, I’m toast.
Thankfully, I speed through security, run to my gate, and collapse into my airplane seat praying Thank you, Jesus. My belief that the drama is over lasts until I arrive at the beautiful hotel booked for me by the organization who arranged my trip. Perplexed, I look at the desk clerk. “What do you mean you are out of rooms? It was guaranteed.”
She looked apologetic. Sort of. “We are overbooked, I’m sorry. We had to choose some people to bump. We have booked you in another hotel. Here’s a map to get you there….”
I can see I’m going to miss the narrow window I had for dinner with the folks who invited me to speak. I can also see there’s nothing I can do but be grace-filled instead of angry. I try, but I’m not 100% sure I make it to the Jesus level on that one. I step outside, trying to keep my cool, and on the drive to the next hotel I call my staff director to tell her the story of this crazy trip. “This is so absurd it’s almost funny.” Linda makes me feel better by gasping in all the right places and sharing my pain. But near the end she gets quiet. “You know what this reminds me of, Shaunti? This reminds me of that terrible trip you had in Texas where you got stuck on the tarmac and missed your connecting flight, and couldn’t get anyone to help you, and you had to stay overnight and take a 5 am flight the next morning…. but on that 5 am flight you ended up sitting next to that man who was willing to give you an impromptu interview for your workplace book, and it was exactly what you’d been praying for, for a whole year.”
She paused. “God clearly had a plan in mind for all that pain, to give you something you needed, exactly when you needed it. So it just makes me wonder – what might God have in store this time?”
Chagrined, I realized how shallow my prayers and expectations of God had been all day – and frankly, so often in my life. I was praying for my convenience (“get me there on time, Lord”), rather than for me to be able to see what purposes God might have for my day – and for me to be a good steward of them. For if it is true that God is absolutely in control, and if it is true that all things do work together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28), then I should not have been trying to simply endure this exasperating trial with grace. I should have been actively looking for how God was going to use it in some way, so I could participate with him. In my brand-new Life Ready Woman book and bible study I had talked so much about the fact that as servants of God, our lives are about His purposes, not ours. And yet here I was, not even remotely focused on what God might be doing.
Shaunti Feldhahn is a best selling author and nationally renowned speaker, best known for her break out book For Women Only that led to a series of other related titles.