She sat in seat 28D. About two thirds of the way back in the coach section. For most people, it’s fairly easy to blend in with fellow travelers on a plane. But you couldn’t help noticing her. It wasn’t her face, although it was a nice one with curious eyes and an unsolicited smile. Her dress was a bit nicer than most people choose to fly in, but that wasn’t it either.
It was her hair.
It was covered in curlers. Curlers! I didn’t know women still used them. With high-end haircuts, styling brushes and blow dryers, I thought curlers had gone the way of the plugged in telephone. But there she was with her curious eyes, unsolicited smiles, and pretty dress sitting center stage in the coach section completely unconcerned about what a sight she was in her curlers.
Most people are self-conscience. We can say what we want, but the majority of us are preoccupied with our own image when we’re around other people—even if they’re complete strangers who have no concern for us. I like to call this preoccupation “image control.” It’s part of our superficial priorities.
But this lady seemed to be unaffected by these concerns and I had a feeling I knew why. She was on a plane. She was traveling to Chicago. It seemed obvious that she was more concerned about looking her best for whomever or whatever was waiting for her when she landed. So much so that she could care less about what all of us folks thought of her curlers.
Yet, even though she seemed unfazed about what people thought of her, she clearly seemed concerned for the people around her. During the course of this flight, I saw this lady admire a baby several seats forward. When the baby experienced some discomfort and cried, instead of acting annoyed like most of the other people within ear shot, she gave a pitiful look to the baby and then tried to brighten the baby’s mood by making fun faces at him. It worked. An elderly lady got up to try to find something in the overhead bin. The uninhibited lady in the curlers jumped right up to help her get down her heavy piece of luggage.
If you travel much, there’s a distinct point in a flight when you know you’re getting close to your destination. The pilots pull back on the throttles in order to slow the plane down. When this happened, I turned to check on the lady in seat 28D. Sure enough, she was gone. I looked at the back of the plane just in time to see her curler-covered head slip into the bathroom. Ten minutes later she made her way down the aisle with her hair perfectly in place. She’d pulled out her curlers and done her magic and now she was ready for whomever or whatever inclined her to not worry about what any of us thought of her.
As I mused on this, I realized she represented a fresher and wiser perspective for life than most people embrace. She was more concerned about looking her best for the one(s) she cared most about than for the strangers surrounding her who ultimately had no claim on her life. As I considered her priorities in spiritual terms, she stood out as someone from whom we could all take notes.
Face it, too much of our time is spent being concerned about what people think of us than focusing on who we really are and why we’re ultimately here. Too many people are more concerned with looking good or feeling good than with doing good. We’re more preoccupied with impressive behavior than we are with proven character. We’re more motivated by what people think of us than by what God thinks of us.
If you’re a Christian, you’re on a journey. The trip we all take passing through this world isn’t the main point of our existence. Rather, it’s that moment when we finally come down the jet way of Heaven and see the One who bought our ticket with His very life waiting for us at the end of our flight. Perhaps if we were less concerned about impressing the strangers of this world and more preoccupied with being ready for that moment when we finally see Him face-to-face, we’d actually be more valuable to our fellow travelers.
I got off ahead of the curler lady, but I waited. When she came off of the jet way, I approached her, introduced myself, explained my curiosity, and asked her if I wasn’t being too presumptuous, could she please tell me what or who drove her to go to such great lengths to look her best. She lit up and said, “I’m going directly to a wedding! I’m so excited!” And then she headed off through the crowd to make her way to the big event.
If you know your Bible, this incident turned out better than I could have imagined, especially for a preacher who’s always studying life for analogies. The first item on the agenda when God finally calls His children home is The Wedding Feast of the Lamb. The Bible tells us that we’d better come ready for the celebration. The lady in seat 28D was more of a spiritual metaphor than she could have ever imagined. I, for one, think we’d all do well to learn from her.
How about you? Do you find the tension to impress or measure up for the people around you competing with your greater calling as a follower of Christ? How about the pressure to have your kids measure up—even to the arbitrary and superficial behavioral expectations of other Christians? Do you find it hard to operate in curlers (more concerned about your ultimate destiny with Jesus) when you’re around people who find this odd?