Why did I pack so much stuff? I always pack way too much, I think to myself trying to squeeze into my window seat with my overstuffed purse.
“Hi.” A tall guy says to me as he squeezes into the seat next to me, his knees extending into the aisle. “They don’t build these planes for 6’5 men I guess.” He chuckles.
There are four hours between O’Hare International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport. He seems friendly, and now examining his features, the light brown hair and freckles dotting his face with intense blue eyes, I think, maybe not such bad company…
“I’m Drew.” He extends his hand.
Drew grew up not far from Chicago in a nearby suburb. He completed his undergrad at Northern Illinois University and continues graduate studies in meteorology at Brigham Young University in Utah.
“So you want to be a weather man?” I ask, smiling. “No, I want to predict commodities for natural gas companies and stakeholders, that’s where the money is.” He replied. I like him more already.
We get to talking. He explains how the pilot is wrong in saying that it won’t be raining in Los Angeles when we land and he bets that it will. We talk about the differences in cloud formations and he draws pictures in my journal depicting the mountain shade effect. “Mountains are always greener with more vegetation on the western side because the moisture rises from the west. That’s the direction weather travels, generally leaving the east side of the mountain a lot drier…”
At this point, I don’t think I’ve ever been so fascinated by weather.
He tells me he used to play volleyball in school before deciding on a career in meteorology. I glance at his strong long arms. “When I was younger I was always so fascinated by the weather. I would stare out the window during thunderstorms constantly, hoping to catch a few glimpses of lightening.”
Everything is going so well with this conversation. It flows very naturally with no awkward pauses nor is there overexcited chatter about nothing to fill space. Drew is very easy to talk to and also very easy to listen to. I relax into my seat.
Then it happens. He mentions something about a mission trip to Virginia. “Oh, what were you on a mission trip for?”
“My church was engaging various people about their relationship with Jesus.” Oh no. He’s one of them! I grimace, what a waste.
He asks me if I know Jesus or have a relationship with the guy. I tell him I’ve seen him around, mainly tattooed on people’s arms or on gold chains around people’s necks. It’s my last attempt to keep the conversation light.
Before he starts to tell me about the late great savior of mankind I tell him I have my own personal spirituality. We begin to define Christianity and Buddhism; examine Islam and finally he asks what I believe. I explain very patiently that my beliefs don’t have a name; they simply are. All influenced by my experiences. I tell him about my boyfriends in college during my exploratory years. I dated a Buddhist once, then a Shaman. I learned to meditate and then I learned to see.
I remained alone exploring for many years. In the caves of Mexico and pyramids; in sweat lodges; living amongst wolves. Yes, I too, dedicated my time and energy to a greater energy. Its name was not Jesus but there was something, partially within myself and partially in everything else around me contributing to anything that was created: the beauty and horrors. I don’t pretend to live in a perfect world and we are a complex race full of dualities. Still, when I looked around I liked to think that God was in the sunset, we both agreed on that. God was in the mountains. To me, God is a smile too. We all see glimpses of this God everyday if we pay attention.
I found him to be charmingly curious and interested in all the stones I had to throw at the holes in Christianity. He was anxious to fill them with quotes from the Bible, historical facts and other tricks in his Jesus-mongering hat. I was still slightly charmed watching his blue eyes and the golden ring he had that bordered his pupil.
“So would you agree that the world’s religions like Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity all have their finger on the elephant (elephant in this case being a metaphor for God) but maybe Islam has it’s finger on the trunk of the elephant and maybe Christianity has its finger on the husks of the elephant and perhaps Buddhism rides on the powerful legs of the elephant. “
“I would agree with that…” I said after pausing to think for a few minutes. “Would you?” I said looking surprised.
“No in Christianity, we believe that Jesus is the only way to the elephant.”
“I see….” I say. He begins some chatter about how socially he doesn’t just hang out with Christians but he’s a rather very inclusive person.
“So regardless of whether or not I’m a good person who cares about this earth and its inhabitants, I’m going to Hell?” I ask, getting to the point.
“As a Christian, without Jesus, you won’t be saved.” He replies.
He tries to change the subject and I glare out the window. I’m not upset; it just seems as though the common ground we walked along during the conversation has converted to two very distinct paths that are clearly marked with each of our names on it.
We land and he throws his head onto my shoulder flirtatiously. I look into his gorgeous eyes.
“Guess it sucks I’m going to Hell, huh?”