This has been the proverbial monkey on my back for the greater part of my life. Playing games and at times wreaking havoc with my mental and physical health, anxiety ironically has been one of the greatest teachers in my life.
Many lessons were learned on my return trip from Jamaica where I joyfully celebrated my mother’s 95th birthday.
Twenty minutes before our scheduled arrival in Toronto, the captain of the airplane announced that there was a thunderstorm that would delay our landing. The plan was to circle the airport a few times in the hope that the weather conditions would improve, so that he could land the plane within the next 30 minutes.
Nearing the 30-minute timeframe, the captain announced that he was going to divert to Hamilton to refuel. Clearly his plan did not work out. Nor did my plan to take a connecting flight from Toronto to Montreal.
It was very late at night when the plane finally landed in Toronto and the events that followed would make anyone anxious.
- The long wait in the airport’s Customs Hall. There had to have been at least 1,000 masked passengers in the queue, making social distancing virtually impossible!
- Finding out that my connecting flight was delayed but I just missed the last boarding call.
- Receiving an email from the airline offering me a seat on a flight at 8:00 a.m. the following morning.
- Not being able to do the self check-in to confirm my acceptance of the 8:00 a.m. flight.
- The airline agent announcing she was going off-duty and directing me to call the airline’s Customer Service Call Centre to get more information.
- No access to meal and accommodation vouchers.
- The long wait to speak with the call centre agent who directed me to the airport hotel, which had no more rooms when I got there.
- Several calls to nearby hotels, only to find out they were fully booked.
I was stranded, with no place to sleep.
The receptionist at the hotel offered me the option of taking the airport shuttle to another terminal building where there was a large area where I could ‘camp out’ until 6:00 a.m. when I would again try to check in to the 8:00 a.m. flight.
Unbeknownst to me, a woman who had walked in with her daughter, overheard my conversation with the receptionist. She offered me her room so that I could have somewhere to sleep and take a shower. Stunned, I didn’t respond to her offer. As I walked away, I heard her telling the receptionist that she had travelled from Australia and like me, she had experienced the delayed landing because of the thunderstorm. Her journey wasn’t over yet. She would have to take the train later that day to Kingston, Ontario to care for her dying father. She checked into the hotel and went to her room.
A few minutes later, I was making a final attempt to check into my flight, but through my smart phone. It worked!
Then, I heard the familiar voice of the woman who had checked into her hotel room. She had come back to the lobby to find me. She said that there were two double beds in her hotel room, and I was welcome to stay overnight and take a shower in time for my flight in the morning.
Realizing that this woman and her daughter had to have been God-sent, I accepted her offer. I slept soundly and woke up in time to take my shower as these two jetlagged angels slept. I quickly wrote a note and left a small gift and my business card, with an invitation to contact me if they were ever in Montreal. I left in time to check my suitcase on the plane, have breakfast in the airport and get on my flight.
All things work together for good!
Throughout this entire experience, I made the decision to remain calm and to trust that all would be well. It all started when I felt the anxiety monkey tapping me on the shoulder as if to say, “I’m here.”
- Acknowledge anxious feelings.
Resisting anxiety or pretending it isn’t there is counterproductive. I could feel the warning signs of anxiety looming in my mind and body, as I realized that I would miss my connecting flight and have to rebook on another flight and find a place to stay overnight in Toronto.
I took comfort in Paul’s admonition to the Philippians, realizing that God was standing ready to manage the situation.
Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].Philippians 4:6-7
- Acknowledge and accept the circumstances that can’t be changed.
Knowing that there was nothing I could possibly do to change my plans while stuck in an airplane with other weary travellers, I decided that anxiety would serve no useful purpose. I made the decision to surrender in faith, letting each step in the process unfold, and give myself the time to calmly assess my options.
Although it was difficult to know how the situation was going to be resolved, I reaffirmed that as a child of God, my loving Heavenly Father would work things out in the best way for me. I reminded myself of David’s testimony in the Psalms.
I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous (those in right standing with God) abandoned or his descendants pleading for bread.Psalm 37:25
- Acknowledge the Hand of God at work in unusual ways in unusual circumstances.
In usual circumstances, I would never sleep in the room of a total stranger. My first reaction was to ignore this kind woman when she first made the offer. Her persistence to find me after she had gone to her room with her daughter late at night, was enough to convince me that God was answering my prayers.
For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in.Mathew 25:35
The sky was clear, and the sun shone brightly as the plane took off the following morning. I smiled from the depth of my heart as I affirmed that God is good, all the time, every time.
Christ in me, the hope of glory. That’s why glory matters.