Because of our global missions engagement, I’ve had to do a fair bit of international travel over the last 5 years. Long hours on airplanes is not easy, but I won’t lie, interacting with so many missionaries around the world is worth the countless stiff necks, merciless jet lag, battles for overhead bin space, and brutally long layovers. I’m lucky and I’m grateful (at least most of the time).
Logging those kind of miles can rack up some pretty good airline status, and this past year I finally hit Diamond on Delta. For those who aren’t familiar with what status can get you on major airline carriers, it basically means you are treated like a real human being – early boarding, priority luggage, club access, and a private customer support line among other benefits.
The Best Part
But hands down, my favorite perk comes in the form of the first-class seat upgrade. For most domestic itineraries, the upgrade email will hit my inbox a week or so before my flight. It’s almost a given (you know, now that I am Delta royalty and all). But recently, on a leg I’m where I’m always an upgrade shoe-in, the notice never came.
“Hmmm that’s strange,” I thought. Maybe they’ll give it to me at the airport.
And according to the Delta app, I was still third in line for just one available First Class seat.
“That can’t be right, I’m Diamond. I always get the upgrade.”
But sure enough, the boarding call came and there I was sitting in my economy row aisle seat. No one was asking if I wanted a San Pellegrino before takeoff. No one was offering to hang up my coat for me in the front closet. I sat there wallowing in self-pity, staring at the lucky few relaxing in their spacious quarters as I dodged the oversized carry-ons of the other boarding passengers banging against my shoulders as they passed my row. What’s up with that?
And then a momentary spurt of sanity broke through:
“What’s the matter with you Erik?” I chastised myself. “You aren’t owed one of those seats. You didn’t pay for one of those seats. When did you get so entitled?
I remember the first time I got upgraded. It was amazing! I was so grateful. I couldn’t stop thanking the flight attendant every time she came by my seat. It was an unbelievable privilege and I soaked in every moment not knowing if I would ever get one again.
Yet somehow over time, I unconsciously became less and less thankful and adopted an unspoken position that Delta owed me. I began to expect what I used to enjoy. I felt envy toward those who had what I thought should be mine, wondering what they did to get the “special seat” (you know, like maybe paid for it?) while I sat in the back with the normal folk.
That shift of emotion happened in all of a nano-second. It was instinctive. It was ugly. It was sin.
And the truth is, I do this everyday in a thousand big and small ways. I forget that I’m really owed nothing, not even my next breath. I forget that my entire existence is unmerited grace; created by God, earned by Jesus, gifted to me.
As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, let’s take some time to remember the childlike wonder we’ve lost to a sinful sense of entitlement. Let’s stop and thank God for His grace, the unearned favor lavished on us by our Creator through His Son Jesus.
We’re entitled to nothing. We’ve been given everything. Thanks be to God.