Panic at 36,000 feet

I am taking a week off to spend with my bride. I am posting “gently read” articles from the very early days of this blog. Some of these posts are like new…only read by little old ladies on Sunday afternoons. Seriously, many of you missed these offerings. I hope you find something to enjoy.




First I must apologize to the three or four readers who eagerly show up each weekday to read these ramblings. I was stuck on the road with a defective power pack and no other computer access. So I have to admit that I “blogged” down for a couple of days. Sorry. I am now powered up and ready to ramble.

Last night I was returning from a corporate meeting being held at a casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. Your reaction was likely the same as mine. Unca – where? Turns out it is about an hour from Hartford. But that is a future blog.

My panic happened during a routine and boring flight from Hartford to home in Dallas. I was bored with the movie and tired of reading. As I absently mindedly fiddled with my wedding band it somehow flipped up and disappeared around my seat. I immediately thought of my bride and how I would explain this one. I can always play the idiot card and that is hard to trump with me. But I knew this carried a little emotional impact beyond losing some jewelry.

I pictured that little band of gold laying somewhere on the peanut littered floor. What were the ramifications of losing it? It can be replaced I reasoned. She will understand. It is just a ring. My logic was solid and then I realized that I didn’t buy it either.

I had upgraded to first class and my seat was in the back row of the cabin so finding the ring would not be so easy. Because the passenger next to me was watching the movie I decided to wait until the movie was over to disturb him to look for the ring.  That gave me time to panic and to think.

The ring was not expensive. It was not even my first wedding band (my first one came with a gumball so I had upgraded once). But that missing ring had meaning beyond it’s pawn shop value. I had mentioned this ring in my book When Bad Christians Happen to Good People. The ring had become my symbol for what it is important in my life. There are four very small diamonds that represent the four children that have blessed our lives. Three wonderful sons are a constant source of pride and love. The fourth diamond represents our daughter Katie who died after fourteen unexpected months with us. Unexpected because Katie was only supposed to live hours or maybe days. The entertwined gold strands symbolized how my bride and I had somehow merged two very different lives into one indivisible marriage. When things get tough I have trained myself to look at that ring and it reminds me about what matters.

I thought of the nearly thirty year journey that Joni and I have traveled. I am fortunate in one thing. I married my trophy wife first and saved the hassle. But when our wedding pictures are dragged out I have to laugh. There I am with bad 70’s hair and my baby blue Dumb and Dumber tuxedo. And there is Joni looking gorgeous with her beautiful blue eyes and infectious smile. The reaction is the same for nearly every person who views those photos. A thought bubble rises over their heads with the question…”What was she thinking?”.  I have no idea. I am sure she has asked the same thing. But she has hung in with me and trusted God. She has never tried to change who I am but she has always challenged me to develop my unique design in partnership with the God who loves me. She has prayed for me and our boys more than I can even comprehend. When our marriage monitor flat lined a few years ago she did not give up. That ring symbolized the trials and the triumphs. I breathed a prayer that I would find the ring.

The flight attendant loaned me a flashlight and I crawled as best I could under the seats looking for my ring. With my derriere sticking unceremoniously into the aisle I looked in every nook and cranny. Nothing. Finally I flashed the light back into the seat bracket corner and there it was. I was relieved to find the ring and, frankly, to get my posterior out of the aisle. Slipping the ring back on I realized the value of symbols. Losing that ring would not have changed my love for my wife or our relationship. But that symbol is a reminder of love and the mystery of two lives becoming one.

      And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife….   The Message Ephesians 5

It is a mystery. I am grateful for the journey. I am grateful for the potholes and the detours and the times of smooth traveling. I am grateful I chose not to exit or turn around when the journey got tough.

There is another symbol that I cherish. It is called the cross. And I would suggest that what happened there is the reason that Joni and I are still together in this mysterious and wonderful journey.