Of Planes and Pews

People on a plane and people on a pew have a lot in common. All are on a journey. Most are well-behaved and presentable. Some doze, and others gaze out the window. Most, if not all, are satisfied with a predictable experience. For many, the mark of a good flight and the mark of a good worship assembly are the same. “Nice,” we like to say. “It was a nice flight/It was a nice worship service.” We exit the same way we enter, and we’re happy to return next time.

A few, however, are not content with nice. They long for something more. The boy who just passed me did. I heard him before I saw him. I was already in my seat when he asked, “Will they really let me meet the pilot?” He was either lucky or shrewd because he made the request just as he entered the plane. The question floated into the cockpit, causing the pilot to lean out.

“Someone looking for me?” he asked.
The boy’s hand shot up like he was answering his second grade teacher’s question. “Well, come on in.”

With a nod from his mom, the youngster entered the cockpit’s world of controls and gauges and emerged minutes later with eyes wide. “Wow!” he exclaimed. “I’m so glad to be on this plane!”

No one else’s face showed such wonder. I should know. I paid attention. The boy’s interest piqued mine, so I studied the faces of the other passengers but found no such enthusiasm. I mostly saw contentment: travelers content to be on the plane, content to be closer to their destination . . . content with a predictable, uneventful flight. Content with a “nice” flight.

And since that is what we sought, that is what we got. The boy, on the other hand, wanted more. He wanted to see the pilot. If asked to describe the flight, he wouldn’t say “nice.” He’d likely produce the plastic wings the pilot gave him and say, “I saw the man up front.”

Do you see why I say that people on a plane and people on a pew have a lot in common? Enter a church sanctuary and look at the faces. A few are giggly, a couple are cranky, but by and large we are content. Content to be there. Content to sit and look straight ahead and leave when the service is over. Content to enjoy an assembly with no surprises or turbulence. Content with a “nice” service. “Seek and you will find,” Jesus promised. And since a nice service is what we seek, a nice service is usually what we find.

A few, however, seek more. A few come with the childlike enthusiasm of the boy. And those few leave as he did, wide-eyed with the wonder of having stood in the presence of the Pilot himself.

—Max Lucado, Just like Jesus, 77-79

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