He was the type of man who knew how to pack a week’s worth of clothing in one small backpack. He stood in line impatiently, a seasoned traveler, waiting for his opportunity to check in for his flight and move on with his day. I saw him strut up to the counter, passport in hand, confident that it would be a smooth experience. From my vantage point I could tell right away that there was a problem. The airline employee’s brow furrowed. Did you make this reservation yourself? she asked. He seemed puzzled as he assured her that he had made the reservation. His passport still hung in the air, looking exotic in his hand with its stamps from around the world.
Her eyes never left her computer screen. You’re at the wrong airport. She said it in a matter-of-fact way, with authority. He had scheduled a flight out of a different airport in the city, and then he had expertly packed his things and confidently driven to the wrong place, where no flights to exotic spots were leaving at the moment. His shoulders slumped. His passport fell to the counter like a wounded butterfly.
His posture said he had never felt so stupid in all of his life.
He turned to leave, his expertly packed backpack flung over one limp shoulder, still shocked that he had made such a terrible mistake, bleary-eyed as he considered all it would take for him to get to the other airport in time for his fast-approaching flight.
The truth is that by this time there was probably no fixing his error. He hadn’t realized until it was too late that he had been following the wrong agenda all along–even though he looked the part, he wasn’t as much of an expert as he had imagined. And now he was deeply regretting his huge mistake.
As I watched him go, I wondered how many Christian parents might someday find themselves in a similar situation. Parents who prioritized everything but Jesus. Who made sure that their kids were at every sporting event and every band concert and every dance recital, but who figured it wouldn’t be that big of a deal if they couldn’t make it to church on most Sundays.
Parents who made sure to talk about politics and self-esteem and safe sex, but who figured that their kids were getting all the Jesus talk that they needed in Sunday school, on the days when they managed to get them there. Parents who chose to live as if their faith only mattered when it was convenient. Who wanted their kids to have Christian values but never taught them that God’s way is the best way to live. Parents who felt confident that they were giving their kids the best possible life, the most coveted opportunities, the most discipline. Parents who told themselves that their lukewarm Christianity was enough. That their family would be okay in the end.
And then one day they look up, and their children have grown into adults with no interest in Christ. With no spiritual foundation to build on. With the values of a God-hating world. These parents who have invested their lives in their children realize in that awful moment that they were actually in the wrong airport all along. They looked like the greatest parents. They did a lot of things right. But it turned out that none of it really mattered. Just like the expert traveler, they had made one very grave mistake: they had failed to make Christ the starting point. They had built a life itinerary for their children that excluded the entire reason that life matters. They made it all about baseball and theater and music, popularity and name brands and cars and colleges. They had invested all of their time and money and resources in ways that made their children believe that what matters is what doesn’t last, and that what is eternal isn’t worth thinking about.
Imagine how badly parents who are true Christians will want to take it all back when they realize how quickly the years have passed. How all of the training in godliness that they planned to do one of these days just never got done. Imagine how they will grieve when they are standing there, taking in the awful truth that their chance to influence their kids has passed, and that the godless adults who are now standing before them are actually a direct result of their influence.
Since the day I watched the expert traveler’s painful moment unfold, I have often wondered if he ever made it to the right airport. I hope he got to add another stamp to his impressive passport. If there is one thing he needed that day, it was the chance to start over.
Maybe you need the same chance. Today is the day to gain eternal perspective. Where are you investing your life? Where are you leading your kids?