The plane taxied out to the runway, preparing for take-off. This wasn’t the first time this had happened. It was routine. Every day planes took off from the airport. Every day they landed in some far off destination safely and without incident. However, this wasn’t just another “every day”.
On this day in particular, while people were coming and going from the busy airport, oblivious to anything being amiss, three women were at their homes in various parts of the state on their knees … each having felt compelled to pray for their husband’s safety.
One of these women – Adrianne – especially knew how important her prayers really were given the circumstances that had unfolded just hours earlier when she’d been awakened from a dream.
Recalling the event, Adrianne prayed for her husband with a special fervency, appealing to God in His abundant mercy and grace.
It was just a dream, her husband had told her when Adrianne abruptly sat up straight in their four-poster bed, alarm all over her face.
Go back to sleep.
But Rob, Adrianne had argued fearfully, eyes wide with the deep sense of concern that filled her heart and soul, it seemed so real … maybe it was a warning … maybe you’re not supposed to get on that flight.
Honey, if God didn’t want me to go wouldn’t He just tell me Himself? Wouldn’t He let me know, huh? Robert had asked sarcastically, tempting his wife to continue to argue the conviction she’d felt deep in her spirit.
However, rather than give in to the temptation, (having learned from experience it was no use to argue) Adrianne tried to do as her husband had asked, but sleep would not come.
She knew something was going on … she knew there was a reason her spirit felt so troubled. So, instead of sleeping, she prayed.
Now, as the tired woman prayed once again, standing in the gap for her husband, she could only hope God would be faithful to answer in the way He knew to be best … the way He always did.
Jael secretly grasped the edge of his seat as the plane made its ascent into the sky.
Never having flown before, the man with the tattoo’s and tough guy appearance was shaking inside like a little girl.
He didn’t like the feeling of not being in control. He was always in control.
Always having been the ringleader of his group of friends, always having had everyone else listen to him give the rules, the directions, and the commands had caused Jael to develop a false sense of superiority … and a false sense of security.
Now that he was in the air, the sudden realization at his total dependence upon others was frightening, however, he wouldn’t show it.
He was too tough for that. He had learned early on in his life not to show weakness.
Having grown up in a home where he got beaten anytime he dared shed a tear had taught him to keep all his feelings inside.
Unfortunately, it had also taught him the only way to survive in the world without getting beaten up was to be the one in control – just like his father.
And so, once he fell in love with the girl of his dreams – Natasha – he did everything he could to make her his own.
Not wanting anyone to steal her away from him, Jael showed his future wife he was willing to fight for her; he was willing even to lay down his life for her if anyone dare come between the love they shared for one another.
At the time, Natasha just thought he was her “knight in shining armor,” and the man of her dreams as well.
It wasn’t until the two had been married a couple of years and Natasha had given birth to their daughter that the woman learned the truth behind his actions.
The first time Jael smacked her up aside the head for not being able to instantly overcome the postpartum depression she suffered from was her first clue something wasn’t right.
Before that, he’d been so loving towards her. Before that, he’d never even shown a temper.
However, once Natasha had started crying uncontrollably on that fateful day it was as if something inside Jael snapped.
Truth be told, Jael himself didn’t even see it coming. All he knew was that he felt helpless and that he wanted his wife to stop the incessant crying.
At the time, Natasha was so shocked at being hit by her husband that she did actually stop crying … momentarily … just long enough to see Jael peel out of their driveway in their old beat up station wagon (seemingly to escape the whole situation).
Then, once Natasha knew the coast was clear, the tears came in a torrential downpour.
Now, not only did she have to deal with all the hormones that were going wild inside her own body, as well as with being a mother for the first time, but she also had to figure out how to deal with whatever her husband’s problem was.
Never having disclosed his past upbringing with her since both his parents had died before the two had met, (and anytime she tried to get him to talk about it he told her he didn’t want to talk about it), Natasha didn’t have a clue what she’d been getting herself into when she’d married the man who had started out as a dream … but had turned into a nightmare.
As their daughter grew, Jael not only started hitting Natasha more every time she showed the slightest sign of weakness, but he also began to threaten her that if she told anybody she’d live to regret it.
What had started out as love between two people had turned into Jael’s battle for control (unknowingly so that he wouldn’t have to lose what he actually loved the most.)
Having been practically paralyzed by fear with not knowing how to handle his wife’s raging hormones at first, then later with not knowing how to handle her apparent self-sufficient stance (along with his growing daughter’s vulnerability as she grew into a beautiful young woman), Jael did the only thing he had unconsciously learned to do while under his own father’s roof – be the one in control of it all – “be a man” as his father had told him – a man who showed no fear, no weakness, no vulnerability … and certainly no crying.
Not realizing he had been acting just like his father towards his wife and daughter until that very moment in the plane when fear gripped his own heart just as tightly as he continued to secretly grip the seat underneath him, Jael hated himself for it.
He hated what he’d become. He hated the way he’d treated his family … but he knew no way out.
Natasha got up off her knees. Praying for her husband had become her sole way of holding on to hope – hope that one day things would change and be different.
Knowing in her soul it would only be by the power of God Almighty that her husband would come to realize his sin and his need to repent and have a personal relationship with Jesus, the woman left the matter in God’s hands, confident her prayers on behalf of her husband would be answered – eventually.
After all, didn’t it take her a while to get saved herself?
Having gone to all the parties with her then boyfriend, she hadn’t had a clue of her need for anything more.
No, she’d been happy and carefree … content even … with the way things were going.
It wasn’t until after Jana was born did I realize I needed something … or someone … more than just my own husband to make me happy, Natasha recalled as she walked into her kitchen to get herself a cup of coffee.
Not until Jael smacked me did I get a wake-up call, the woman remembered with mixed feelings.
“That put everything into perspective,” Natasha said out loud as she continued to reminisce.
Then, that night Jael went out with his friends and I just couldn’t stand to be cooped up at home anymore with a toddler, I secretly took the baby stroller, put Jana in it, and went for a walk downtown.
When I heard the sound of excitement coming from a tent just a block away, I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame.
Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I saw other mothers with kids sitting in the back row of what looked like some kind of a party underneath an enormous white tent.
Everyone looked so happy, and whatever it was the people at the front of the crowd were singing seemed to just compel me to join them.
So, Natasha remembered as a smile spread across her face, I did. I went and sat in the back with the other mothers and their kids to see what was going on.
I wanted to get in on the excitement. I wanted to know what it was that made everyone look so happy – for I sure wasn’t happy at home anymore.
And, the woman recalled nostalgically, that’s the day I met Jesus.
At the tent meeting I accidentally attended, I found out about how Jesus loved me – for me, how Jesus died on the cross – for me, how Jesus wanted a relationship – with me, how Jesus did everything – for me.
All I had to do was accept it, and accept Him into my heart to be my Lord and Savior.
All I had to do was believe that He would now be the true Source of my happiness, my excitement, and my joy … and that He would actually be my all in all.
He would be there for me even if every other person on the planet let me down.
He would love me for me – unconditionally, flaws and failures, weaknesses and everything.
All I had to do was go to Him in faith, believing He would save me – and I did.
That night Jesus saved me. He made me a child of God. He made me worthy in His sight.
And He gave me the strength to love my husband with His love – even through the continued beatings, even through the continued controlling mechanisms Jael used to “keep me in line.”
“Through it all, Jesus has always been there for me,” Natasha declared to the now empty coffee cup she’d mindlessly grabbed with the picture of the local pub on the side.
Noticing the image, the woman remembered something else … the night Jael came home drunk from the establishment waving the mug in his hand.
Look what I won! Her husband had said triumphantly, slurring his words when he’d walked in the door of their bedroom after she’d already put their daughter to bed and had gone to bed herself.
Struggling to wake up to see what her husband was talking about, she’d rubbed her eyes to focus on the picture on the side of the cup Jael had abruptly stuck in her face.
Oh, that’s nice, Natasha had said, hoping to satisfy his apparent need to share his victory with someone.
Yeah, and all I had to do was drink more shots than the other guy before he gave up! her husband had related, obviously proud of himself for accomplishing the feat just seconds before he’d had to run to the bathroom to hurl.
“Even in that, You’ve always been by my side, Lord. And even when the drinking turned to drugging and that turned to Jael quitting his regular job and becoming his own boss (as he’d called it) … becoming a drug dealer … declaring he’d be the one to provide … declaring he wouldn’t have any wife of his supporting him … declaring he’d be the one in charge.
“Even when he got so controlling and hit me for no apparent reason, You were always there for me, Lord Jesus,” Natasha said thankfully, knowing it had always been His strength made perfect in her weakness.
Sure, there had been lots of times when she’d felt like leaving Jael. She knew no one would blame her. She knew there were probably even scriptures in the Bible that would support her decision.
However, she also knew what the Lord had put in her heart – a resolve. A resolve to love her husband unconditionally – just as God loved her.
A resolve to put up with whatever she needed to put up with in order to show Jael the love of God – the love of a heavenly Father – the love Natasha had long since figured out Jael’s own dad had never showed him.
Yes, Natasha had to admit, she was growing weary. And yes, she had to admit, she didn’t know how much more she could take.
However, she also fully believed the Word of God that gave her the assurance that the Lord wouldn’t give her more than she could bear.
Recalling the verse she’d memorized, Natasha took comfort in the words of 1 Peter 5:10 that she now whispered as she stood in the empty kitchen and wondered how God would answer her most recent prayer for her husband.
“‘And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.’”
“Isn’t it a beautiful day to go to the Farmer’s Market?” the cheerful woman on the other end of the phone declared as Jane answered, having seen on the caller ID that it was her friend from church.
“It sure is shaping up to be,” the woman agreed, smiling to herself, always having been fond of her friend’s not-so-subtle approach in relating what was on her mind.
“Would you like me to come pick you up?”
“That would be great, Jane, you are a godsend, I don’t know what I would do without you.”
“What time were you thinking?” Jane now asked, already knowing Sylvia never had been one to stay patient for long. Once an idea was firmly planted in her mind, she had always wanted to seize the first available opportunity to make it become a reality.
“How about now?” the woman asked enthusiastically. “Didn’t Rick leave for that missions trip already?”
“Yes,” Jane answered, always having been proud of her husband’s commitment to follow the Lord’s leading and guidance wherever it directed him. “He’s up in the air as we speak.”
“Well then, I’ll see you soon?” Sylvia asked, anxious to put her plan for the day into action.
“Okay, I’ll be right over,” Jane relayed, hanging up the phone with a smile, genuinely glad she could offer transportation to the friend who had never learned how to drive despite all her ambition to do everything else on her own.
It’s the one thing that makes me remember to be grateful for others, the spinster had confided to Jane not long after they’d met many years ago.
So, really, it’s a good thing – it keeps me humble, Sylvia had added with a twinkle in her eyes.
Be that as it may, Jane now thought to herself as she remembered their long-ago conversation while locking the front door of the house she and her husband had shared for over three decades, it can also put a burden on others unnecessarily.
However, since I hadn’t made any other plans, it’s my pleasure to indulge Sylvia today, Jane thought sincerely as she got into her car and adjusted the seat.
With long legs, her husband always had to remember to put the seat back as far as it would go, otherwise he would feel like a sardine all squished in, Jane now thought with a smile, having made the proper adjustment so her much shorter legs could reach the pedals comfortably.
“Thank You, God,” Jane prayed before backing out of her driveway. “Thank You that You are sovereign and You can be with Rick and I both at the same time even though we’re in very different locations – he in the air, and I on the ground.
“And thank You, Lord, that You can direct both our paths and give us the guidance we need to do Your will.”
Rick looked around, taking in the scene before him as he shifted once more in the middle of three seats located in the center of the plane that was now flying just above the clouds.
The flight attendant who had given the safety demonstration earlier had disappeared, and now, as the man took notice of his seatmates on either side of him, he observed the differences in their appearance.
To his left sat a man probably ten years younger than himself dressed in a suit and tie who appeared to be on his way to some type of a business conference.
To his right sat a man probably twenty years younger who wore jeans ripped at the knee, a t-shirt that had seen better days, and worn out sneakers.
Looking down at his own tan khakis and blue polo shirt he felt like the three of them represented all walks of life – on the surface.
However, having learned a long time ago not to judge a book by its cover, Rick kept an open mind and an open heart to see if perhaps God would give him an opportunity to get to know the two gentlemen better during the flight.
Reaching forward for the journal he always used for every missionary journey – home or away – the man happened to catch a glimpse of the knuckles of the guy sitting next to the window.
Being nearly white as they tightly gripped the edge of the seat underneath him, Rick cautiously stole a peek up to the man’s face.
Brown as it was, it too had a pale look about it – almost as if the guy was about to be sick.
Compassion taking over, Rick couldn’t help but offer a solution to the man’s obvious predicament.
“Hey there,” Rick began, hoping to sound casual to the tough looking man who obviously didn’t want anyone to know the struggle he was in.
“You know, when I went on my first flight, I threw up all over the lady sitting next to me. She wasn’t too happy about it, to say the least,” Rick relayed with a friendly, conspiratorial smile.
“That’s when I first discovered the bags on the seat in front of me,” he continued, pointing in front of the man who stared blankly back at him.
“The lady told me in no uncertain terms how they were there for the very reason of holding vomit.
“She said I should’ve known better seeing as I was a grown man – probably about your age at the time.
“I remember thinking to myself, how could I know that? No one had told me.
“So, I hope you don’t mind me offering this little tidbit of advice.
“There’s no shame in holding onto one of those bags – you know, just in case,” Rick concluded, hoping he hadn’t offended the man as he held out his hand to properly introduce himself.
“I’m Rick, by the way, and if you do happen to lose your breakfast, don’t worry, I’ll understand.”
Looking at the hand held out in greeting in front of him, Jael couldn’t help but be amazed.
Why would some stranger act so nice to me – especially when I look like I’m about to puke?
Not understanding it, but curiously welcoming it at the same time, Jael decided this guy seemed cool – even genuine.
He shook the hand being offered while introducing himself.
“I’m Jael,” he said with a slight sad smile that conveyed both a nervousness of being in flight for the first time, as well as something deeper that was hard for Rick to miss.
“Nice to meet you, Jael,” Rick said carefully, wondering about the look he’d seen on the man’s face and wondering if it was something he should mention.
However, before he could decide, Jael quickly let go of his hand and reached for the vomit bag in front of him, just barely getting it open in time.
Hearing the commotion nearby, the man on the other side of Rick looked over and asked what was going on.
“Well,” Rick said good-naturedly with a small smile, “it looks like our friend here just lost his breakfast, nothing to worry about, I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
“Oh, yeah, well, I guess it’s good he grabbed one of those bags,” Rob mentioned, wrinkling his nose in disgust, never having liked witnessing someone else be sick.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Rick responded, taking the opportunity to extend his hand and introduce himself to his other seatmate.
“I’m Rick, by the way, what’s your name?”
“Me? Oh, I’m Rob, uh, Robert,” the man said as he shook Rick’s hand, still distracted by the other guy near the window who was now seeming to look for a napkin or something to wipe his mouth with even as he realized he had a clean handkerchief in his own pocket that had not been used.
Letting go of Rick’s hand and retrieving the handkerchief, Rob then reached across the man and extended it towards Jael awkwardly.
“Here, hope this helps.”
“Thanks,” Jael said, clearly embarrassed as he wiped his mouth and looked down towards the floor once again, not having thought to introduce himself.
“This here is Jael,” Rick related, nodding in the man’s direction as he informed Rob of the other man’s name.
“It’s his first flight, but I told him not to worry if he got sick … I did when I was his age.”
“Oh, yeah, well, I guess it must happen to everyone at some point,” Rob responded, searching for words, not knowing quite what to say while thinking about how genuinely compassionate the man seemed to be and debating whether or not to continue having a conversation with him or whether to just mentally prepare for his upcoming meeting instead.
Just then, the three men felt a sudden jolt of the airplane as it maneuvered its way through the air.
All of them looked first at each other, then towards the front of the plane as the same flight attendant they had listened to earlier appeared, informing everyone to stay calm.
There was nothing to worry about, she said, with what only Rick noticed seemed to be a pasted on smile.
They were just going through some turbulence, again, nothing to worry about.
However, as a precaution, everyone should buckle their seat belts until further notice.
(end of chapter three)
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