Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"...there's just something about that name."

A most peculiar thing happened in and around me on the flight back from Germany last Friday. I was pretty tired when I settled into seat 35C of Lufthansa flight LH428 from Munich to Charlotte. In fact, I fell asleep before the plane was pushed back away from the gate, and woke nearly an hour into the flight. As I was waking, a young child was just settling into her Daddy's lap for a nap in the seats to my right (and back a little ... a half-row offset). The family in seats 35D-35G was comprised of a man, woman, and two beautiful little girls of maybe 3 and 6 years of age. The youngest girl was the one nodding off as I woke. After taking in my surroundings (since my sleepy head clearly missed the chance to do so when I boarded the plane), I turned my attention elsewhere.

A couple of hours later, the little girl woke, whining. The whining turned to crying tinged with the occasional "Owie", and then the whole bit transformed into outright screaming. She was obviously in pain, not merely unhappy. My guess was that her ears were bothering her. She continued quite loudly expressing her pain for at least five minutes, during which she was passed from her father to her mother. Many in the cabin were rubbernecking to see what was going on, and when the mother was asked directly about the child's problem, I overheard the response: "She has an ear infection."

If there's one thing I knew at that moment, it was how painful flying with ear issues can be. On a recent return flight from California, both of my ears refused to "pop", and I was tormented for a half-hour by the nearly unbearable pain that results. It can be a bit like having nails driven into your ears, if you haven't experienced it. I tried everything at the time—drinking water, yawning, chewing gum, forcing high pressure into my ears. Nothing worked.

As I recalled that pain from just a few months ago and imagined what that precious little girl was going through, I realized something: my cheeks were cold, with trails of tears coming down them. Some may say it isn't "manly" to cry. I say it isn't manly to be so self-consumed that you risk not caring for the suffering innocent. And so I did the only thing I could do at the time: I prayed.

Now, I don't consider myself a prayer warrior by any stretch. I don't lay claim to any of supernatural spiritual gifts so celebrated in charismatic congregations today. I'm guilty of slapping the old "inJesusnameAmen" at the end of my utterances, and usually with nary a thought as to who Jesus is and why in the world we pray in his name, anyway. But the seeming injustice of a little girl in pain on this airplane was overwhelming to me at that moment, and so I prayed for her relief. And because I've been taught that there is power in the name of Jesus, and because at that rare moment I was able to believe wholesale that God could and would spare this child, I prayed specifically in the name of Jesus Christ for this relief to occur.

Now, if there another thing I knew at that moment, it was about waves of warmth. I take a medicine that can cause flushing incidents—basically, your body feels like it's on fire on the inside, your skin turns splotchy red, and for a couple of hours everything that touches you feels like it's made of straight pins. I also know that when I get emotional—especially when I'm angry—a wave of heat passes over my body and I'm a sweaty mess in three seconds flat. But at the very moment that I invoked the name of Jesus in my prayer, I felt something like that wave of heat pass over me, but without the typical tell-tale sweaty results. Almost immediately, the screaming girl in row 35 began to calm down, and soon was asleep in her father's lap again.

In the name of full disclosure, I noticed that at about the time I was praying, the parents were administering an oral medication. Maybe that stuff is powerful enough to dissolve that kind of pain in thirty seconds flat. I can only speak to the situation as I perceived it, and to the extent that I was involved.

To the family in row 35 of flight LH428 on Friday, October 17, I hope your little girl heals quickly. You as parents showed an incredible amount of patience in what could have been a stressful and embarrassing situation, and are to be commended for it. And while I'll never be able to say for sure whether God intervened in this situation, I am confident of two things: He is a just God who cares for people, and for once I did in faith exactly what I was supposed to do.

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