Traveling through airports can be a real adventure. Traveling internationally, even more exciting. Between the language barriers, security checkpoints and varying standards between countries, it is easy to get into a situation that has airport personnel asking questions.
Recently, I was traveling throughout eastern Europe to speak at homeschool and family discipleship conferences and I found myself in one of those peculiar airport scenarios.
I had been overseas for a week already and had spoken at several conferences in several different cities. After each one, I gathered the supplies for my object lesson and tossed them into my bag, got into a car or a train and moved on to the next city. This day, we were leaving one country and flying to another. I sent my bag through the security scanner and sort of sighed when the agent backed it up and sent it through again – and again – and again. Four times it went through before I was asked to step out of the line and allow the agent to search my bag. Painstakingly, he ran his hands around the inside of my bag – recognition needs to go to these agents and the things they must encounter during these searches. After a couple of minutes, he pulled out a knife, looked my right in the eye and informed me that I was most certainly not allowed to take a knife on the plane. Now just to clarify, I used this kitchen knife in my object lesson to slice an apple in half and then an egg. I had no nefarious intent in carrying the knife on board that plane.
The security agent must have recognized my abject humiliation as my face first drained of colour and then, I’m sure, turned bright red! He very politely asked me if I would like to give the knife to a friend outside of security – I had no friends dropping me off. The only people I knew in the airport were standing in line behind me, waiting for my stuff to get out of the way. I sighed, shook my head, “no” and told him to just throw the knife in the garbage. It was my favourite picnic knife, but I knew it had to go.
Next in line, behind me, was another member of our team. Like me, he had prepared an object lesson, discussing a time when the authorities threatened to arrest a friend for homeschooling before it was widely recognized as a legal educational alternative to public school. We all stood at the end of the x-ray belt, waiting for him to move through security so that we could head to our plane. We were running a bit behind getting to the airport and then after my little misadventure, we were concerned that we were actually going to be late. As we chatted, we noticed that the security agent was looking at our group and that my friend’s bag was being reversed back through the scanner, and again, and again. Good grief.
For his object lesson, he had brought a pair of metal handcuffs, and like me, just tossed them into his carry on bag instead of into his checked luggage. This poor guard removed the handcuffs and looked at my friend and our group. Like me, my friend said, “toss them” and we beat a hasty retreat toward our departure gate before we could do anything else that was inappropriate.
Our friends were in hysterics – laughing at our foolishness. To be honest, in hindsight, it does seem pretty funny that for two people trying so hard to do a work for the LORD that we would make such a bungle.
With the very best of intentions, two of our group of eight (me being one of them) had 1) broken the law (trying to sneak prohibited items onto an aircraft); and 2) caused a whole group of people (the security agents and anybody else in line who could see) to question our integrity.
We were a group, we were all looked at together – especially after the second incident. Even though we were trying to do something good, because two of us weren’t careful enough, we could have done a great deal of damage to our testimonies – I think the situation was redeemed by our shamed faces and apologetic attitudes.
1 Peter 2:12
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
How often do we set out to do the right thing, a good thing, and then make careless choices that totally change the impact we had hoped to have?
Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honour.
Taking the extra time to ensure that the testimony we present will bring only honour to the LORD is something that I will be reminded of every time I look at a kitchen knife.
1 Corinthians 4:1
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.