Liquid gold melted over the clouds and shone with incandescent majesty. The very atmosphere blazed with all the burning glory of a fiery gold refinery. With the sun leveling itself mid-way in the sky, its gilded lips kissing the right wing of the airplane, Kyler marveled at this scene where splendor and beauty were wed.
“So what’s so great about him?” The seatmate’s insistent question pulled Kyler’s pondering gaze from the window.
“Before I left ... you know for the lavatory. You were telling me about your work for Jesus and all that.” The pudgy thirty-something woman emphasized the phrase “work for Jesus” with heavy sarcasm and the use of her fingers as quote marks in the air. “I’m just wondering what’s so great about him. What makes him stand out from any other whacked out religious leader from centuries ago?”
Kyler stole another quick glance out the window and breathed in – as if filling his lungs with the glowing strength of the sunset. He turned patient eyes to the woman. Eyes that shone with the passion of sharing the Good News. “Jesus wasn’t just any religious leader. He was a revolutionary. His goal was to change the world, to change the way people saw God. He wanted to show them that religion by itself was worthless.”
The woman guffawed and shook her head, her short blonde ponytail slapping from one ear to the other. “Now that’s rich. Here I thought Jesus was the king of religion. You know, all that ‘do unto others’ and ‘love your neighbor’ stuff. Sounds pretty religious to me.” She squirmed smugly in her seat.
“Most religions maintain that we should be kind to others.” Kyler shifted and leaned both elbows on the armrest between them. “But kindness can be superficial if it’s not backed by genuine love.”
“Uh-huh.” Her expression was dubious. The bored look made her eye shadow appear even heavier.
Kyler faced the seat ahead of him, watching the red-hot sun rays glare into the fabric. Lord, she’s not taking me seriously. Give me a chance to show her Your love. He faced her again. “It’s like this ma’am –”
“Gael,” He took a breath, “What’s different about Jesus is His love. His grace. His sacrifice. How many religious leaders do you know of who’ve died for their followers? Yet Jesus didn’t just die for His followers. He even died for those who didn’t appreciate His sacrifice.”
Gael sneered. “I’d sure like to see his followers put that into ac–” The plane lurched, stopping her mid-sentence.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are experiencing minor engine trouble,” the intercom cracked overhead, “please fasten your seatbelts and remain calm.”
The seats jolted again, generating collective screams from several passengers. The plane bounced roughly, reeling like a storm-tossed ship at sea. Kyler felt the monstrous machine lunge forward, slamming him back against his headrest. He glanced at Gael.
Her eyes were ripe with fear.
Again the captain’s voice buzzed over the speakers, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are now in a state of emergency. Please prepare for emergency evacuation ...”
The cabin became a frenzied mass of confusion. Mothers grabbed their children. Flight attendants shouted directions. Everyone scrambled to the rear of the aircraft.
Kyler’s heart raced a dozen paces ahead of his feet as a plane-full of people scurried en masse to the emergency exit. Trapped in a freakish nightmare, he gaped in frozen horror as passenger after passenger donned a parachute and leapt through the open door.
He was at the end of the group, watching the last of the passengers disappear into the blinding twilight. He nabbed a remaining parachute pack and shoved his arms through the straps.
“Oh, my gosh!”
Kyler spun to see a wailing stewardess desperately clutching a pack.
“There’s only one left!”
Then he saw the last passenger. In a flash, the words from his prayer came back. Give me a chance to show her Your love...
“Gael!” Kyler yanked off his pack and put it on her shoulders, helping her arms through. “Use mine.”
Gael stared at him, mouth agape. “But what about ... how will you...?”
The stewardess touched his shoulder, tears staining her smooth face. “Sir, in this situation it’s my duty to –”
“No, you go too. Go, go!”
As two crying women jumped into the gold-tinged sky, Kyler felt anxiety and heavenly peace clash in his soul. And in that instant, he knew what it meant to love like Christ.
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