"...in accordance with his pleasure and willó to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace..." Ephesians 1:5-7 (NIV)
The usual airport din hummed seemed to hum even more loudly with the throng of holiday travelers. Even after such a long day of teaching, Jen's characteristic optimism and cheerfulness were undiminished. As she and her husband Dave waited to board their plane, they talked about how glad they were to be headed back east to see their families. It was getting late, and Dave's main objective at that point was to get out of California in one piece.
"Attention passengers," the flight attendant's saccharine voice interrupted Dave's thoughts, "this flight has been overbooked and we are looking for anyone willing to exchange their tickets for travel vouchers and $100 cash for a later flight."
Jen's ears immediately perked up and she tossed a hopeful glance toward Dave. Wordlessly, he refused by shaking his head. Understanding her husband's desire to get back to Wisconsin as they had already planned, Jen didn't argue. Fifteen minutes later, the flight attendant addressed everyone again.
"Attention passengers. We still have no takers. We are authorized to offer compensation in the amount of $300 for anyone willing to exchange their tickets."
The thought of a few hundred extra bucks in the bank account was an attractive one. More insistently this time, Jen attempted to convince Dave to switch their tickets to a later flight. Still Dave was adamant. He reminded her that his parents were already expecting them to arrive on this specific flight in a matter of hours. Jen resisted the urge to pout. She knew Dave was just being practical, and that was one of the things that endeared her most to him. Even so, it was difficult not to think about how that windfall sum of money could be put to good use. The PA system's microphone crackled to life once more.
"Attention passengers, we are offering a night's stay in a downtown San Diego hotel, in addition to six hundred dollars in travel vouchers good for any future travel arrangements, for anyone willing to exchange their tickets for this evening's flight."
This time, without a moment of hesitation, Jen snatched Dave's plane ticket right out of his hands as she bounded to her feet and practically sprinted to the flight attendant's desk. Even Dave unequivocally agreed: Six hundred dollars plus a accommodations in one of San Diego's nicest hotels was too good to pass up. Their families were just going to have to wait one more night to see them for the holidays!
A few years have passed, but Jen still recalls with vivid detail how much fun they had that night in an all-expenses paid hotel overlooking the San Diego Bay. The fabulous steak dinner they enjoyed at the hotel's restaurant were indeed a savory treat for them. Perhaps the best part was that the travel vouchers enabled them to make two additional trips from California to Wisconsin that year, with room to spare, financially speaking.
Perhaps the reason why some people don't take advantage of the opportunity is that it all seems to good to be true. There's nothing hidden in the gift of grace. It doesn't expire. It's not only available during certain times of the year. It's difficult to imagine why, in consideration of all that we stand to gain from the free gift of grace, more people don't bound to their feet like Jen did to accept the offer. All we really have to do is be willing to change our itinerary and go along with God's plan instead of our own. The conditions we need to satisfy in order to be deserving of such a gift are rather simple, really. The flight has been paid for, there's beautiful room with a view reserved just for us. All we need to do is show up.