(Photo courtesy of Rock Church)
By Mario Montoya
The fumes of the carbon dioxide being emitted from the exhaust pipes of the old airport shuttles filled my nostrils. The smell of gasoline was so overpowering that it penetrated the fibers on my jeans and t-shirt. The Dallas Texas winter perforated my skin and chilled my bones, as I stood there at a distance watching happy families board their shuttles.
The fresh high-and-tight I had recently gotten at the Marine Corps Base the day before was making the cold unbearable. But somehow, standing outside, shivering in the cold seemed as the best alternative after spending many hours inside the terminal when the bad weather canceled dozens of flights. The airport was crowded with stranded people like myself, yet many of us felt alone in that sea of people. I was a teenager at that time and I hadn’t seen my family in months. It was the night of December 23rd and all I wanted more than anything in the world was to be home for Christmas with my family.
Fifteen years have passed since that time I was stranded with a multitude of strangers in an airport feeling discouraged, anxious, and furious because Christmas wasn’t going to be what I anticipated. Yet, as of lately I’ve experienced the same feeling of being stranded when I have conversations with others about the holidays not being what they were hoping for.
Being stranded means: “To be left without the means to move from your current place.” Do you feel stranded? Where do you currently find yourself emotionally, spiritually, or even physically? Do you feel without the means to move forward? I’ve been there! And sometimes, God reveals new things about ourselves and about Himself, as we stand there stranded.
2020 left many of us stranded in multiple areas of our lives. During the upcoming holidays, the sentiment only intensifies; the regulations seem to be extreme, the loss of loved ones still seems unreal, the burnout of social distancing keeps wrecking lives, the loss of financial security left us depleted, and the list continues. As we approach the holidays during a worldwide pandemic, we need to acknowledge that this year might not be the same as former years. However, that doesn’t mean that we are left stranded and hopeless.
Isaiah 43:18-19 says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Throughout generations, God saves Israel every time they feel surrounded with nowhere to escape. All they had to do was call on His name! So how can we call on His name during this season that makes us feel like Israel, surrounded and stranded? For starters, we can “forget the former things and see that He is doing a new thing!”
This year I perceive Thanksgiving as less than a ritual dinner and more about gratitude and generosity (thanks–giving). God is doing something new in me! Also, I’m contemplating how Christmas this year represents:
- My hope in Christ (Luke 2:11)
- God being with us! (Matthew 1:23)
- His peace given to us! (Luke 2:14)
I’m determined to enjoy this season because of His hope, His presence, and His peace—even during the tumultuous times we currently find ourselves in. God is doing something new! Maybe this pandemic is a blessing in disguise. Perhaps you too can pause, as you wait there stranded, and enjoy His presence and the peace you can experience as it overflows into those around you.
As I stood there stranded on that airport, I realized I wasn’t going to stay there forever. But while being there, I made new friends and enjoyed a peaceful dinner with great conversations. After a few more hours of waiting, a plane arrived to take us home.
Upon my arrival, I shared with my family about my new friends, our conversations, and how much I matured from that experience. In the same way, understand that wherever you find yourself stranded, you won’t be there forever. Even as you wait, God is doing something new in your life. Don’t miss what you can learn, enjoy, and accomplish in this season because your plane will eventually arrive and take you home.
Find out more about Pastor Mario Montoya and The Rock Church San Ysidro Campus by visiting www.sdrock.com/campuses/sanysidro/