North Platte is not a really large airport. So, to get here, I had to fly into Denver and catch one of the smaller regional carriers into Nebraska. As they called for us to board our plane, it required us walking out onto the strip and climbing into the old Beechcraft 1900. I followed a young service man, in full camo, as he led us out towards our plane. We both shivered as we stepped into the early evening Colorado air. It was in the low 30s with heavy wind and some ice and snow.
There were only 6 of us on the plane and we all boarded and sat in silence. Honestly, I think all of us were just trying to stay warm. The heat on the plane really doesn't kick in until the plane is cranked and we sit through the 20 minute de-icing process. By the time we actually took off, it was mostly dark and very quiet on our plane.
It wasn't until we started our very bumpy descent into North Platte an hour later that the service man (he was seated right behind me) leaned up and yelled above the engines, "Doesn't look real comforting when the plane is swaying like this, huh?" (He kind of startled me because I thought he had been asleep).
"No," I said as I glanced out the window and watched the plane's wing sway in the wind. "Especially when you're watching the wings dance like that." I took advantage of this opening to talk a little with my new friend.
"You from North Platte."
"Yep. Born and raised."
"Where you been?"
"Afghanistan mostly. I'm coming home. Haven't seen my family in nine months."
"I bet you're excited," I said...stating the obvious.
"Yeah," he said. Then he added something that kind of surprised me. "I'm really nervous and a little afraid. I don't know what I'll say or how I'll act. I've got a wife and a 3 year old...she was two when I left. I don't know what I'll say to them...or how they'll receive me..." He trailed off.
"I'm sure you'll be fine and so will they. It will be more natural than you realize. By the way, let me be one of the first to welcome you home...and to say thanks for all you have done."
I thought of going home...our real home. I thought of how many of us live in "fear" of heaven because it's an unknown. How will we act? What will we say? Most important, how will He receive me?
Let me be the first to welcome you home. If you are a follower of Christ, you have nothing to fear. Those who "serve" Christ are recognized by the One they serve. You will be received warmly. Make no mistake about. Just like my friend from the plane.
The young private walked off the plane just behind me. He was a good 10-15 feet behind so I hurried in out of the Nebraska wind and positioned myself for the homecoming. The doors had hardly split open wide enough for him to enter when the three year old girl raced from her mothers arms, jumped into her father's and screamed with delight, "Daddy! You're home."
I thought of the day I'll get to do the same....