Monday, October 06, 2008

Crossing Canyons

I hate airports. In fact, I am pretty sure that hell will be very much like an airport, only with no departures (in the same way that I think heaven will be much like the Olympics, only with less spandex).

Our trip a few days ago from Kansas City to Baltimore as we began to make our way back to Africa, set those feelings in concrete. Upon our arrival we set about to accomplish the monumental task of getting all of our luggage checked in. This was no small endeavor and the curb-side-luggage-check-in-guy was less than enthusiastic about our appearance at his station, and he let us know that by saying no less than twenty times, “It would have been cheaper to send all this UPS.”

Which made me want to point out to him rather forcefully that WE ARE NOT AT UPS AT THE MOMENT, AND SINCE THERE ISN’T A UPS STATION IN THE AIRPORT IT LOOKS LIKE WE’RE STUCK WITH YOU! I refrained, and fear I will forever regret that I did.

These days airlines are charging for everything, they say to make up for the rising cost of fuel. Which seems strange to me because I thought the ticket price increases were to make up for the rising cost of fuel. But apparently airlines can no longer afford to fly you AND your luggage to the same destination unless you pay them roughly the equivalent of what it would cost to repurchase everything in your suitcase when you reached wherever it is your going. They just hope you don’t figure this out until after you have already paid, which they accomplish be stating, “My computer won’t show a total figure until AFTER I have scanned your credit card,” (yes, we were actually told that!).

When curb-side-luggage-check-in-guy finally had our charges all tallied – like the fee for oversize bags (which is not dependent on our bag being too long, but on the total dimensions of your bag when they’re all added together- huh?), and the fee for overweight bags, and the fee for bags with pockets, and the fee for bags with wheels, and the fee for bags that look old, our total luggage cost ended up being four times the cost of our tickets, which means that I could have flown to Baltimore and back twice for what it cost to get my luggage there. Or for that matter, I could have sent them to Baltimore by limousine for less than what our airline charged.

When I protested, curb-side-luggage-check-in-guy informed me that he didn’t actually work for the airline I was flying, but that he actually worked for a private security company hired by the airport. Which when translated means, “Listen pal, nobody at this airline really cares that you are unhappy because they know you don’t really have a choice since you have already paid for your tickets, and since I don’t actually work for that airline, I care even less than they do.” And then he informed me, “It would have been cheaper to send it UPS.”

It seems being on a journey is often a costly experience. We move from place to place, season to season, from joy to sorrow, from life to death. As a missionary I sometimes struggle with the state of somewhat homelessness we live in (and I hesitate to write this less I be perceived as one unhappy with the journey I’m on). The truth is though I am happy with this journey, just challenged by it at times. Sometimes I long for more permanence than we have, for more stability and sameness in our lives. But the landscape seems to forever change. We go to bed in calm, and wake to chaos. We cross the creek, only to be confronted by the canyon.

But there is also something wonderful in that as well. And that is that simply, in the unknown-ness of our journey, in the midst of unforeseen challenges, we also find unexpected delights. As we crest the mountain, we witness the setting sun paint orange and pink streaks across the sky. As we emerge from the wood, we stumble on a field of wildflowers. As we pause by the roadside, we marvel at the multi-colored coat the forest dawns in mid-October. Just as there are unexpected obstacles, there is also unexpected joy. And without one, we would never have the other.

And the thing is, when we can’t see the whole road laid out before us we tend to expect more of our present terrain, whether it be good or bad. But often the move from struggle to success is as close as the next bend in the road – a bend we will reach only if we continue to travel.

The night we arrived in Maryland to visit Paula’s sister, we were getting settled in the house where we would be staying while here and were being welcomed by our nieces and nephews, when the youngest, four year old Hope, came up to me and said with a hint of concern in her voice, “Uncle don’t look like Uncle Jerry.”

Realizing that Hope hadn’t seen me since I started wearing glasses, I promptly removed them to see if that might change her mind about my not resembling myself. When I did, she beamed and dove into my lap with a hug, exclaiming jubilantly, “Uncle Jerry!” – as though the offensive Hyde had once again become the affable Dr. Jekyll.

Apparently, the resemblance had been restored. And with it, my own hope that joy and revelation might be closer than we think.


Netta said...

Thank you for being honest.
We continue to pray for you.

Karen Yancey said...

Jerry Ireland, you have a "book" residing in you...just waiting to be written! I recall the first time you wrote in Paula's newsletter, prior to your marriage. I read the article and remembered thinking "Paula, is such a tremendous word-smith" (she truly is) only to discover at the bottom of the page that the editorial had been written by a guest contributor ... Jerry!" I guess that's the moment when I "knew" you must be meant for each other! We admire you for sharing your feelings so candidly and with vulnerability. We believe God is going to meet you both in your place of brokenness and that you will find true strength ... God's strength ... in your weakness. Love you both. Karen and Terry