I recently had a somewhat aggravating, but overall eye-opening experience. On my travels out to a recent retreat that I attended, we encountered some aeronautical difficulties. After racing to make a connection that started boarding while I was still on my last flight, I found myself sitting on the runway for nearly two hours before having to turn back to our gate to refuel with the mere hope of actually making it to my destination. This in of itself was not my eye-opening experience, but it was the reaction of my fellow stranded passengers.
It all started out normal enough. Everyone was expectedly - yet sadly - on their phones, lost in the vast connections of the inter-web while avoiding real connections with the people next to them (while I somehow managed to acquire half of the dinner from both my seat mates who I was positioned between...point for human contact!). As time went on, however, and we receive more delays and more explanations from the captain, the inmates were becoming more and more restless. Now, you're probably thinking that this shouldn't have been any kind of shock or existential experience, but it was the underlying cause of the restlessness that I found most interesting.
Granted, I have a calmer temperament by nature than most, but I felt like I was taking it all in stride while my fellow passengers were increasingly complaining and calling for free cocktails (which I did not disagree with). Then i remembered what I had recently heard from a podcast about the phenomenon of Obstacle Course Racing (stay with me on this). One of the reasons posed for the exponential growth of OCR over the past few years has been the vast change in society that has happened relatively quickly. More and more we see that as a society we are doing everything we can to remove challenges from our way. Now we can buy virtually everything we need online, even have boxes of groceries delivered to our doorstep. At the airport, we can register for TSA Pre-check, cause who can be bothered to take their shoes off. No matter where we look our society is removing supposed obstacles from our way to make our lives easier, and supposedly happier. So this may be fueling some of our desire to seek out opportunities to challenge ourselves physically is such races, but I believe that this also plays a part on our rapid response of anger and anxiety when things don't immediately go our way.
As Christians, we should have a unique advantage because we are called to live lives that embrace the challenges and obstacles of life. Was not Jesus himself a stumbling block to the Jews, and a foolishness to the Gentiles? As Christians, we were never promised the easy road, but we were promised that our God would be there to take on the challenges with us. To give us the strength and the grace to endure, to run the race to completion.
It was frustrating to be stuck on an airplane for an extra three hours, but that's not the point. The challenge that I call us all to (including myself) is to look at these moments where frustration quickly comes upon us. Is this coming from a just cause? Or have we become used to the easy road that our society has been trying to offer us? Are we settling for comfort when we should be striving for greatness?
Life is more fulfilling when we accept the challenges that lie before us. And the journey is worth the hardships when we realize that we have a God who longs to accompany us along the way and strengthen us with his grace.