While waiting for Flight 6072
The joys of inclining your ear to the Lord
I went Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo and picked 1 Peter at the Asheville airport while waiting for flight 6072 to Philadelphia. It took me an hour to get through Alexander Scourby’s audio reading because of the doggie videos on the big screen in the lobby. Interestingly, with each rewind, I not only recouped but got more from the text, as if Ruth herself were gleaning and re-gleaning in some magic grain field.
That day 1 Peter was the best book in the Bible. But so would have been John or James or 2 Samuel, I’m sure, or any of the 66 that Mo had landed on, for investing the same effort. God seems to relish rewarding the seeker. Nothing wrong with the rushed verse-over-a-half-cup-of-morning-joe, but “the secret of the Lord” (Psalm 25:14) is reserved for those who incline their ear (Isaiah 55:3).
Daniel, thus applying himself, learned the number of years Jerusalem would lie desolate (Daniel 9:2). Simeon doubtless had searched Holy Writ when “waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25), the Spirit finally obliging by leading him straight to the temple where he held Hope Incarnate in his arms.
I’m sure there was even more to mine in Peter’s letter, but I got up to buy a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin at the concession stand. You get what you put into things. The king of Israel, told by Elisha to strike the ground with the arrow, “smote thrice, and stayed” (2 Kings 13:18-19), angering the prophet with his limp resolve, who then rebuked the monarch: “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times.”
The way things are going we may all end up in a prison eating food from boxes marked “fit for human consumption” and with no reading material to pass the time. I have often thought that if that day comes the most valuable man will be the one who had imbibed a lot of Scripture and could recite it to his cellmates.
In his own exile (1 Peter twice calls Christians “exiles”), Napoleon Bonaparte likely drove himself half mad raking over past military campaigns—Jena, Austerlitz, the Egyptian campaign, Waterloo. Far better to have done what Associated Press journalist Terry Anderson did in his Beirut imprisonment (1985-1991) courtesy of the Islamic jihadis. After lonely days of scratching lines on the wall near his head to keep track of time, he finally asks his captors for a Bible. Amazingly, one complies:
“I sat up slowly, stiffly. He pulled the blanket off me and draped it over my head, leaving it hanging over my face. … I cautiously pulled my blindfold up a bit until I could see the book. Red, new. A Bible, the Revised Standard Version. I caressed it gently. ‘May I read now?’ ‘Thirty minutes. Be careful. No look.’ ‘Thank you.’ … I leaned forward so the blanket would hang over my face, but allow light from the bulb above me to fall on the book in my lap. Opening the cover, I sniffed at the page, inhaling the new-book, paper-and-ink smell like perfume. … Then: Genesis. ‘In the beginning …’” (Den of Lions: Memoirs of Seven Years).
After the plane took off, the pilot said we were flying at 30,000 feet, a height from which earth’s features down below are wonderfully transformed. The Word of God similarly affords an elevated perch in times of trouble. It was rainy down in Asheville, but that bird soared right through the opaque nebula, and just above, the sun was shining and the sky as blue as the clerestory of heaven. It was just the perspective this pilgrim needed.
If you are ever at the airport in the town of Asheville and have time to spare, I commend to you protracted passes on the writings of our fellow pilgrim Peter, though I cannot say as much for Asheville’s pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.
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