I hurried into the Orange County airport to pick up my sister who was flying in to visit. I expected her to arrive any second. What I did not expect (because it was not Sunday morning and I was not in church on my best behavior) was that God was about to show up also.
I made my way to the video screens to make sure her plane had landed on time. I confirmed that her flight had arrived, so I knew she would soon be soon walking down the nearby stairs to get her luggage. After a few minutes of watching passengers come down the stairs, with no sign of my sister, I glanced back at the video screens to make sure I had read correctly. Then I looked at my watch, then to the stairs. I repeated this cycle a few times … screens, watch, stairs. To my amusement, I noticed that I was in a group of people doing the exact same thing. Beside me were an elderly husband and wife, a middle-aged couple and a single lady, all looking at the screens, then at their watches, then at the stairs. With Olympic-like precision we continued our synchronized waiting routine. With a bit more practice (and some matching spandex uniforms) we would be ready to take on the Russians in 2012.
My concentration was interrupted when I heard a high-pitched, excited screech. I turned to see what the commotion was about, and in the distance I saw an overjoyed, smiling little girl, probably three years old, running as fast as her tiny legs could carry her, her blond hair waving as she did that bouncy-running that kids do. As she ran, I noticed that she appeared to be going a little faster than her legs could handle, and, sure enough, she soon tripped and fell face down.
I expected tears and screams, but she quickly lifted her head, looked toward the stairs, and with that smile still as big and bright as ever, jumped up and kept running. When I saw she was not hurt, I finally looked to see who could be the lucky recipient of all this joy and excitement. I saw a man in a suit, who I assumed to be her dad, smiling and laughing with arms wide open, ready to catch his little princess. When they met he scooped her up with a loving embrace, and they held each other, relishing being back in each others’ arms. As they were in the midst of this award-winning hug, the obviously-happy wife/mother, who appeared to be about eight months pregnant, finally reached the pair. The husband kissed her and spread out his arm to gather her in close, too. The amazing thing was that they didn’t just give a two second hug and then walk over to get their luggage. Instead they stood there, in the middle of the airport surrounded by hurrying people, holding each other. I’ll be honest, I got a little teary-eyed.
At that moment I surprisingly had the awareness to look around me, and everyone in my synchronized group had forgotten all about their arriving visitors. The elderly couple, the younger couple, and the single lady had all quit checking the video screen, ignored their watches, and stood mesmerized by the beauty of this moment. Here we were in one of the richest counties in the country, surrounded by million dollar homes, luxury cars, and plastic surgery-attempts-at-perfection, yet what stopped people in their tracks was this loving relationship on display. It was as if God had decided to break into the hustle and bustle of our crazy, distracted lives and give us a quick—but beautiful—glimpse of Himself and His kingdom.
Our relational God invites us into the loving community that is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, where we are embraced and accepted. We are also invited into the church, where we grow in relationship with others living out the reality of God’s kingdom while here on earth. And I think that watching this family interact sparked something inside of those of us watching. At least it sparked something in me. A yearning. A sense that I was created for what I was observing. For relationships so close and safe that they cause me to unashamedly yell out loud because I’m so excited to see someone, or stop to embrace people while the world hurries by, or run so fast toward others (and toward God) that I sometimes trip and wipe out, but keep smiling.
Eventually, the dad/husband took his daughter on his arm, and held the hand of his wife, and went to pick up the luggage. I almost wanted to thank them. I felt like I had been let in on something intimate and sacred. I felt privileged that they let me, and all of us, share in the expression of their enjoyment of one another, even in a small way,. I didn’t thank them, but more appropriately, I thanked God. I thanked Him for showing up unexpectedly, and using a loving family to reveal Himself to me in a fresh way, for giving me a picture of life in His kingdom. We have a God who doesn’t just show Himself to pastors and super-Christians at church and Bible studies, but to ordinary guys like me who pretend to be doing synchronized sports with elderly people at an airport by baggage claim.