Character Matters

I was recently flying from Denver back home to Dallas. I had just spent three days at the annual Peacemaker Conference. I enjoy flying an airline that lets you choose where you sit, so I immediately scanned the plane to find a bulkhead or emergency row seat. There in the first row was an open middle seat. A bulkhead with plenty of leg room for this 6’5″ long legged guy to enjoy his 2 hour flight home! As I approached the seat with great relief and anticipation, the two gentlemen seated on the row said in unison “They are saving this seat for a man in a wheelchair.” Being the kindhearted, compassionate guy I am, I moved on to take a seat two rows back in a cramped middle seat thinking how great it was that an airline would think to provide a convenient bulkhead ride for a wheelchair bound person. 

An hour into the flight as I enjoyed my peanuts and ginger ale, I happened to glance forward to notice the two men in the bulkhead row sprawled out with no one in the middle seat. My first thought could have been “I guess the wheelchair man must have missed the flight.” But that wasn’t my first thought. It went something like this: “Those lying jerks! Here I am scrunched into a middle seat with leg cramps and they’re taking advantage of luxury!” I wanted to call the attendant over and ask if that seat was being saved for a wheelchair guy. I found myself stewing over being duped and deceived into forced contortionist seating far less comfortable. As the flight landed, I caught myself thinking “I’ve got to know if if they were telling the truth.” However, in that moment, I chose to deplane without asking the attendant about the seat.

 I reflected on that incident and came to the conclusion that my character was showing and it mattered that I did not make a scene. I could have acted on my judgmental thoughts but chose to extend grace. My selfish desires were driving my thoughts. My wanting comfort was battling my contentment. Character matters. Whether those two men hatched a deceitful plot or not, it did not warrant an over reactive response on my part. After all, why not rather be wronged. Did I mention that I had just been infused with biblical teaching from the Peacemaker conference? 

This small incident underscored the reality of our moment by moment struggle with influence. I recognized the battle in my soul as my feelings of being deceived fueled my thoughts of judgmentalism toward these two men. With a whispered prayer, I submitted my agenda to the influence of God’s mission: “See to it that no one misses the grace of God.”-Hebrews 12:15. 

When small offenses happen and you fill in the blanks missing facts, it quickly becomes a battle of influence between your fleshy selfish desires against the influence of the Spirit. A holy pause allows us to respond with a gracious stroll through the garden where fruit of the Spirit is ripe for the picking (choosing). May you seek to allow the character of Christ to be reflected in the small details of your life. That is the definition of God’s sovereignty. Character matters!

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