Traveling in and out of foreign countries can be tricky, and the best idea is to cooperate with those in charge. At official airport checkpoints, it’s wise not to speak until spoken to and then to give short, succinct answers. Forget the ad libs, the cute quips, the attempts to be friendly.
This morning as I left England, I was ushered through 3 airport security checkpoints by uniformed officials in search of eye contact and honest statements. As I waited in line, I worried about several things. Would they be irritated by the orange in my carry-on, since fruit in luggage is a no-no? I remembered being lectured long ago because a banana peel had been in my bag hours earlier. Its lingering scent won me a bag inspection.
Displaying my clear plastic quart-sized baggie with small gels and lotions in it, I approached checkpoint number two thinking I’d covered all the bases. Then I remembered the lip balm in my coat pocket.
Watching the woman in front of me get frisked and then endure a pocket check, I pictured myself in an empty room asking for one phone call. Thankfully I made it through that one, but while sitting at the gate, one more check occurred. Several men arrived with leashed dogs trained to sniff bags, encouraging them to walk slowly past each of us… twice.
I couldn’t wait to board the plane that was sitting just outside the airport window, the one with “American Airlines” written along the side. After feeling like airport officials had been searching for a way to exclude me, that airplane represented the end of judgments and the beginning of warm acceptance.
After I was finally buckled into seat 33A, the plane took off and flew across the entire Atlantic Ocean above a carpet of fluffy white clouds. That heavenly scene pulled my thoughts to spiritual judgment and the harsh exclusion I deserve because of repeated sins. What will it feel like to stand in front of Jesus with that kind of record? Although airport officials had a certain measure of power over me today, Jesus will have far more on that day.
But the glorious truth is that when I arrive in paradise at life’s final checkpoint, the Jesus in front of me will have already given me clearance because of arrangements made long ago when he took my rejection upon himself. And from everything I read in Scripture, when I stand in front of him, I’ll experience the warmth of an acceptance like I’ve never known.
Today at my very last checkpoint, the one inside in the United States, an immigration officer looked me in the eye and said, “Welcome home.” That felt pretty good, but when Jesus says it, it’s going to be downright spectacular, the ultimate in homeland security.
“Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins.” (Romans 5:16)