On a Southwest airline flight from San Diego last weekend, my husband and I missed the call for the group A seating, which I admit was my fault. He was a bit upset because in order to sit together for this four hour flight, we had seats in the rear of the plane as opposed to our exit row preference for leg comfort.
Before we could settle in our seats comfortably, the man in the window seat immediately started talking to my husband. They had a general conversation as I sat between them. At first I was annoyed because I had bought a cheap gossip magazine to read, something I have not done in a years. I did not want to be rude and pop it out while they were conversing. Possibly sensing my feelings, the man started including me in the conversation, asking my thoughts and opinions on their life topics which ranged from our trips out west to work, family and children. When the topic turned to his children, the man suddenly announced with conviction, “You can’t do it without Christ.” His entire facial expression and vocal tone changed. Sensing he was dealing with something very heavy, my husband began to minister to him.
The man kept repeating he could not say what his pain was, but he was experiencing something quite embarrassing. I took my focus off the magazine and candy bar I had in a bag on my lap (I also had not eaten a candy bar in months) as this conversation turned from general to very intense. Both my husband and I have a spirit of discernment and knew we needed to keep talking to the man because his heart was heavy. He began speaking of his divorce and how he felt he was a failure to his family and children even though he had a successful career as an engineer with a major corporation. As my husband continued to engage him in conversation, the flight attendant took our drink orders and his was a beer. Nothing usual about that, many people order alcohol beverages on flights, but this man would not let us go. He needed us on this flight. God needed us to sit next to him.
The man eventually revealed he had been an alcoholic for twenty-five years and decided to make a change in his life. He had researched and enrolled in a rehabilitation program and was going to tell his employer Monday morning that he was taking a month off work and why. He kept repeating he was scared, embarrassed and fearful and we continued to speak words of faith to him. Even more shocking, he disclosed while in San Diego, he had decided to commit suicide and even devised a plan how he was going to go atop one of the tall ships on the harbor, tie his legs at the ankle and jump off, hoping no one would ever find him. Fortunately, he thought about what that would do to his family and abandoned that plan. This man was crying for help!
My husband responded to his cry, as the spirit led him to pull the bible from his briefcase and turn to John chapter 5, also known as The Healing at the Pool. He read the chapter out loud as the man listened intently. My husband focused on two points, Jesus asked the man who had an infirmity for thirty-eight years, “Do You Want to be Whole (Well)?” and the man at the pool made excuses why he sat by the healing water for years and never got in.
This total stranger, a man we did not know and may never see again became a believer. He thanked us over and over and said it was purposed that we sat next to him. We talked the entire four-hour flight and he and my husband talked an additional twenty minutes in the airport. We pray like the man with the infirmity in the Bible parable that he “picks up his bed and walk.” Indeed, it was “On Purpose” we missed the A group seating. Although I ate the candy bar, I never read the gossip magazine. God had another plan.