Over this past weekend, I attempted flying back to school (my second time flying in my life; the first was flying home 2 weeks previous for Christmas).
Flying. Ugh. Big mistake.
The flight home for Christmas was nerve-wracking, but the flight back to school was absolute insanity.
The original plan was to fly from San Francisco to Denver to Idaho Falls. But due to some pretty darn severe winter storms that completely enshrouded the east coast, I experienced quite a few problems.
First of all, my connecting flight from Denver was cancelled three times. One time the automated rebooking system omitted my final destination altogether, and I had to go to a nearby airport twice to fix the mistake.
When I finally thought that I had everything figured out, my first flight got delayed and caused me to miss my connecting flight in Denver. The flight that I would have taken the next morning (9 hours later) also got cancelled. Which meant that I had to take the afternoon flight the next day – 17 hours later.
All of this resulted in three days of intense stress and an unexpected overnight stay at the Denver Airport.
In any case, one should make every negative experience a learning one – and I definitely learned some valuable lessons – so here are some pointers I learned this past weekend.
- Airport bagels suck.
- The best music plays on the radio before 5am.
- As soon as you figure out that you are going to have to stay overnight in an airport, snag a comfy, dark, quiet place as fast as you can and stay there. Wait too long and all you will have left to sleep on is the hard ground by a window behind a kiosk when it is 0 degrees outside, resulting in you only getting 2 hours of sleep.
- Don’t get only 2 hours of sleep.
- Find a “comfortable” lounging area near an outlet to recharge your phone and laptop or you will lose connection to the world.
- Wyoming is the least populous state. No really, Alaska has more people than Wyoming. I flew over a significant portion of Wyoming to get to Idaho from Denver, and I did not see any signs of human life (sorry Wyomingans).
- Do not misspell your name on your boarding pass. Especially if it is your first time flying and the part you were most nervous about was airport security. It will result in you getting searched. Overall, not a good life choice. (It’s a good thing there wasn’t a “Lairen Nef” on the No-Flight List or I’d have really been in trouble).
- In your boredom, don’t read a food magazine because the subliminal suggestions from delectable pictures will have you scouring the airport for anything mildly flavorful, and you will settle on a Chicken Wrap that turns out to be bland and bloating.
- The stock of toothbrushes in the terminal stores rapidly diminishes when 500 people are stranded in the airport with you. So either a) Don’t forget your toothbrush or b) Get to the store as fast as you can.
And most of all:
- Don’t freak out. Everything will work out in the end.
I had particular trouble with this last one.
Given that I am the type of person who always wants to know what’s going on and how things work, I was not entirely pleased with being alone in an airport at 12:30 am with a thousand other unhappy people and not knowing what line to stand in, if I was going to be helped, or if I was going to get back to school in time.
I felt completely hopeless, and I became frustrated very quickly. I stood in long lines wallowing in self-pity, trying to hold back tears.
“Just my luck. This would happen to me on my first time flying.”
“Why couldn’t my parents have just driven me back to school?”
“How am I going to get through this?”
“I am alone.”
My pessimism kept me from finding relief during those 17 stressful hours.
Eventually, in the early hours of the morning, I was able to reach a flight desk and rebook for an afternoon flight. I spent the remaining hours attempting to catch up on sleep and wandering around the airport. Finally, at 3:00 pm, I boarded the plane and flew home – that was the end of it. I ended up missing my first day of classes, but everything resolved well and went back to relative normal.
I was happy to be back in my apartment, but I was still a little irritated about wasting a full day trapped in the airport. Actually more than a little irritated. I did not appreciate feeling alone, helpless, and hopeless while being stranded in an unfamiliar place.
But then I attended my religion class this morning.
We talked about the story in the Book of Mormon when Nephi, Sam, Laman, and Lemuel go back to Jerusalem to get the brass plates from Laban. They attempt to retrieve the record 3 times – their first 2 attempts failed and almost got them killed.
After the second attempt to get the brass plates, Laman and Lemuel feel hopeless and angry to the point of violence. In their minds, everything has fallen apart – they live in a desert, their enemy has all of their possessions, and they can’t do anything about it.
However, Laman and Lemuel have witnessed miracles before; they know what the Lord can do, but they refuse to remember.
Even after they are visited by an angel – even then – they complain and remain pessimistic about their chances of getting the plates from Laban.
“How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us?”
1 Nephi 3:31
Nephi, however, is not so easily swayed by doubts and setbacks. He takes courage in knowing that since the Lord commanded him and his brothers to get the plates, the Lord would “prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7).
“Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands?”
1 Nephi 4:1
Nephi does not allow circumstance to weaken his faith and trust in the Lord. In the end, with the Divine assistance he expected, Nephi retrieves the plates.
It was at this point during the class when I thought, “Oh man,” and got spiritually smacked. In. The. Face.
Laman and Lemuel. During my airport excursion, I had behaved exactly like Laman and Lemuel.
Despite the many signs I had seen. Despite the promptings I have felt in the past. Despite the innumerable times the Lord has lifted and guided me through the most impossible situations (take my graduation experience for example) – I doubted. I did not believe, or I just didn’t remember, that the Lord would always help me, especially when I felt alone.
Instead of allowing fear to dominate my thoughts and actions, I should have behaved like Nephi and trusted in the Lord, because the Lord will always provide a way.
I think there is something else that Nephi realized during his struggle to get the plates, and something that I discovered in the aftermath of the airport incident: sometimes the Lord allows us to experience setbacks to help us learn and grow.
We may not realize it at the time, but even the seemingly pointless impediments – like staying in an airport for 17 hours or failing twice to retrieve some brass plates – may teach us some unseen lesson that will greatly benefit us later in life.
In a Mormon Message, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland recounts a similar experience to mine and Nephi’s.
When making decisions, God expects us to pray, trust, and be believing and then not give up, panic, or “jump ship” when something doesn’t seem to be going right.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
We may not know what God has in store for us. We may not know what lies ahead. And sometimes we live through a trial and wonder if it had any purpose at all. I don’t know why I had to endure 17 hours alone in an airport after days of stress, and I am sure Nephi didn’t know why he wasn’t able to get the plates on his first attempt – but I do know that every trial can strengthen us and draw us closer to our Father in Heaven.
No matter how pointless a trial may seem, no matter how dark the hour, no matter how alone we may feel, the Lord knows and loves us. Just trust in His plan, His word, and His timing.
No matter what happens, don’t worry. Everything will work out in the end.
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