As a parent, one of the things you always ask your children to do is to check in with you when they are away. I know there were times my own children misunderstood the reason for the request. In their minds, it was a parental attempt to “control” their time and activity. I suppose on some level that was true, but in reality caring parents take the task of creating a safe environment for their children very seriously. Ruth and I generally kept a midnight curfew when Jacob, Rebekah and Tara were in high school and, although we told them, I do not think they ever really understood that as long as they were out we were awake. We needed to know that they were safe and home.
When children reach college parents are well aware that they give up substantial control of safety, and home itself is redefined. Nevertheless, every year when we survey parents “safety” is still a primary concern even while their children are away at the university. It is a concern that never leaves a parent’s mind – even a Christian parent who knows that ultimately God is in control.
Each year about 40 students from George Fox University travel abroad and study in other countries. We release our students into cultures that are new and different. Our concern for safety remains paramount. Just before the end of the term, we checked in with our students and they were all safe and returning. My daughter Tara, who had been in Lithuania, successfully made her flight on Saturday, Dec. 19, and was on her way home! She checked in at numerous stops to make sure we knew how she was doing. We felt quite encouraged when she made it to Toronto, Canada, and was on the final leg of her flight to Phoenix, where she would meet her grandmother Ballard.
Ruth and I were just going to bed on Saturday evening at about 10 p.m when we got a surprising text: “Our plan depressurized (oxygen masks dropped down) and we were forced to land in Albuquerque, New Mexico! We are OK but sitting on the runway in New Mexico.” All of a sudden as a parent you become quite concerned. You were sure all was “safe.”
I called Tara on the phone, and although the text sounded “calm” she was crying and shaken by the experience. Although I have put in more than 1 million miles in the air over the past 12 years or so, I have never been on a plane when the masks have fallen down and the plane depressurized. She told me that she thought, “Here I have traveled all over Europe and Russia and been gone five months, and I am going to die in the desert of New Mexico!” We talked, Ruth called and Tara felt better. (Of course, as you probably know, one of the most frustrating things is that the airline will not tell you what happened and what is happening as you sit there for hours.)
The good news is that they put the passengers in local hotels, fed them and then got a plane to fly them to Phoenix on Sunday evening. It was a major pain for sure, but all are safe and home.
It is Christmas and a time that we celebrate the incarnation – God coming in human form to bring us redemption. Although we all know it, Tara’s experience over the weekend was an excellent reminder that our real “safety” is not found in human circumstances or machines but in Christ. We do not know exactly what tomorrow will bring, but we do know who walks with us each and every day. This Christmas may you be “safe and home” with family but also in Christ.