Encounter with a Beacon

If Tinkerbell could somehow become human, that’s what she would be like.

I was on a plane from Seattle to Detroit, traveling on business. She first caught my attention as the friendly young girl in the seat across from mine and a couple rows over. She was seated in the middle, between an older lady with white hair and a middle-aged man in the aisle seat. The lady needed to use the restroom (as did seemingly everyone else on the plane, twice, but I digress). So the man stood up and made room for the girl, let’s call her Tink, and the older lady. When the lady made her way down the aisle to the restroom, Tink stayed behind and stood in the aisle. The man, who had a little trouble with English, offered to let her back in. After a couple exchanges, Tink successfully explained she would just wait for the lady to come back, so he wouldn’t have to get up to let her in, and out again, and back in. Well that’s really nice, I thought.

Later, I was looking around the plane, probably with an unconscious scowl because this particular jet was full of people and I was tired of playing aisle-seat bumper-cars with every one of the aforementioned loo-seekers. (I have to laugh at myself — when I catch myself in the mirror, my expression is more of a scowl than a smile, though I didn’t really think I was scowling. So I fix it for the mirror, then walk away. I’m sure 5 seconds later my facial muscles return to their default position.) So when I caught the eye of Tink, what did she do? She gave me a polite, friendly, energetic smile. Wow. That was uncalled-for, yet so welcome! I realized I hadn’t smiled at her, but she paid it forward! When’s the last time you saw that happen on a crowded plane, bus, or train?

These people fascinate me. I always wanted to be that positive; that friendly and happy. But I can barely ever pull it off, for more than 20 seconds or so. It used to be that my ego’s first line of self-defense was to feign omniscience and create reasons why this person could do that, and manufacture excuses for why I’m not that way. Here’s how the discussion usually goes in my head:

She’s had a really great life, so she has no reason to be unhappy.

Sure, she has dodged ever having a problem of any kind. Nice try. Next?

She had a really positive upbringing.

Yeah, so did I. What’s my excuse? Next?

She’s a girl, and girls can pull that off. Guys can’t be that happy and nice all the time. It’s not manly.

Right. I’m sure Jesus walked around with a scowl, and with body language that said “leave me alone.”

She just doesn’t have the kind of stress most of the rest of us have.

You think so, Einstein? Have you ever met someone who claims to have zero stress?

I don’t really care to go on. As I said, that used to be my ego’s self-defense routine, so I wouldn’t feel like a failure as an Ambassador for Jesus. But now I just waive the white flag and surrender. I don’t want to detract from the stunning beauty that is selfless behavior. I don’t want to pretend to know why someone else can do it but I can’t. I don’t want to make excuses for why I’m not the same way they are. I just want to see love in action. I kept thinking she must be Tinkerbell, incarnated, since she seemed permanently harmless, happy, and friendly. But really she was a stunning example of the love of Jesus. When you see something like that, it’s a bit like a crack in the fabric of the world. The infinitely bright, warm light of Heaven shines through into our darkened world for a brief moment in time.

Most of us have met this kind of person from time to time. In my experience, they are few and far between. Sad, isn’t it? Looks like living life more abundantly to me. I have met others like Tink, and found out they weren’t Christian. Whoa! How did that happen? How can someone show the love of Jesus and not know the man?

Could it be that Jesus is working with everyone, and he doesn’t just work with the people who call themselves disciples? Could it be that some people more easily channel the love of God, which permeates every living thing in the first place, and just don’t realize its source? Could it be that those of us who aren’t so positive and friendly are loved just as much? And that, as Paul Young would say, our Father is “especially fond” of each of us, despite our scowls, complaints, and negativity? I think so. And I think Jesus just wishes for our own sake we could unload some of that stress on him and enjoy the ride a bit more. Or a LOT more.

Some people have a talent for speaking. Others have a talent for sports. Others have a talent for singing, or listening, or serving. I think others have a talent for loving. They naturally are good at expressing God’s love for us. Maybe this girl, Tinkerbell, was a Christian. Maybe she wasn’t. It doesn’t matter, because I saw Jesus on that plane.

At the end of the flight, as we were “deplaning,” (yes, as in Fantasy Island) I had the chance to let Tink go in front of me. I waited for her to exit first, as my ridiculously little way of saying, “Thank you for your service to humanity” (yes, I tend to be a little melodramatic when I’m touched). You know what was the icing on the cake? She just grinned and said, “Thanks.” That’s all. Nothing more. If she had gone overboard and said, “Oh! Thank you so much! How sweet! You have a nice day!” that would have killed it. Oh, she’s just insane. I would have thought. She’s lost all contact with reality and is completely, overly positive and emotive about everything. Nope, she just said thanks. Well, that proves it, she’s a real person, I thought. No “inappropriate affect disorder” here. No excuses. A real person with real gifts. The gift of God’s love, and the gift of expressing it.

Now the wrong way to end this little story would be to encourage you, the reader, to be like Tinkerbell (if you aren’t already). I might as well try to will my wisdom teeth back into existence. Chances are, it ain’t gonna happen. Can you and I have more moments of being like Jesus as we mature in our relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit? Absolutely. Can we live life more abundantly as we find the passion God has put in each of our hearts to do whatever it is he plans for us? Absolutely. Can we focus on what’s really important, that we are eternally adopted into the Family of God, by the grace of the Father, through the faith of Jesus, and through the power of the Holy Spirit? You betcha. But a complete personality overhaul is usually not possible. Am I an ogre? No, despite the probable sound of it. Are you? I seriously doubt it. Chances are, you and I are somewhere in between Attila the Hun and Tinkerbell. We can move a bit one way or the other, but we have a personality that is fairly stable. But as we mature in Jesus, we will have more moments when his light shines through. We will have more moments when we don’t get in his way. We will realize it’s not about improving ourselves — it’s about letting the Spirit shine through us. It’s about being more like Jesus. And the best part is Jesus is already in us. And we are in him. He’ll work out the kinks and the dark spots for us. Over time, more and more of his light will shine through. And it won’t be up to us to try to be more loving or more kind. His loving-kindness is already there. The Holy Spirit will just teach us to get out of the way.

~ Steve Solari

4 comments so far

  1. Dyann on

    Thanks for another great post, Steve

  2. Boyd Merriman on

    When I was in my teens and twenties, I spent a lot of time wearing the sour puss facial expression. I guess I was going through a lot of depression which took years of overcoming.

    Around 1986, I remember I was walking in a mall feeling sorry for myself about something and a nice looking girl looked my way as she walked by and frowned back at me. Apparently my facial expression was of a very sour note. That woke me up and helped me realize that my attitude affects others around me, even if just a quick walk by in a crowded mall.

    Over time, I developed an awareness of how we interact with others and that Jesus Christ is in everyone if we would look hard enough (or not try so blasted hard) and live the abundant life of joy and peace, even if we have to fake until we make it.

    Boyd “smile, it makes people wonder what you’re up to” Merriman

  3. Margaret Johnson on

    Steve, I just love your way with words! Great post! Everyone is a child of God and is meant to be is how I like to look at people from all walks of life, even the ogres.

  4. Jeannine on

    I love this post – fantastic.

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