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SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: The vacant seat

Anyone who travels can relate to the anxiety I recently felt when boarding an airplane on business. No I am not referring to the nervous jitters that pass through your mind as you prepare for take-off. I’m not even talking about concern over an aisle or window seat. My angst was over the person who would fill the vacant seat next to me.

Filling a vacant airplane seat is a lot like going potluck with a college roommate, it can either be a wonderful surprise or a huge nightmare. On this occasion, the vacant seat was filled by, “Word in edgewise.” No, this wasn’t his real name, but it sure described the experience.

From the moment he sat down until we made our way to baggage claim, I couldn’t get a “word in edgewise.” WIEW, as I will call him, had plenty to talk about.

He came from a wealthy, affluent family. WIEW was proud to be the black sheep of the flock. He portrayed the role exceedingly well. As a byproduct of the 1960’s hippies’ culture, he never made the transition into the modern age.

Now in his sixties, he was frozen in time as a living icon for the hippie movement. He was a cross between Willie Nelson and Jimi Hendrix. Despite the temptation to be distracted by his dreadlocks, tattoos and body piercings, I took interest in everything he said.

It is fair to say that I was fascinated by WIEW. He had an opinion about most everything. He claimed to know and have influence on powerful people in the world. In his opinion, the underworld is where “big brother” really operated. Of course, he couldn’t say too much for fear of his life.

At one point I took a chance and asked WIEW about where he gained spiritual direction. He indicated he never felt closer to God than when high on cocaine. He also said eternity starts now, and that he wasn’t waiting to die to experience Heaven.

At this point, being the Baptist boy that I am, I sought to seize the day. If only for a moment, WIEW hushed long enough for me to share how I had found spiritual enlightenment and eternal security by becoming a follower of Christ. He seemed to pause and ponder for a moment, and then turned the conversion to rock and roll.

We shared nearly two hours of conversation on that airplane. God only knows if a Gospel seed fell on fertile soil. Somewhere today, WIEW is talking. Perhaps another Christ follower will fill a vacant seat next to him. And WIEW will pause, if only for a moment, to hear the story of Jesus as a fellow believer attempts to get a “word in edgewise.”

So abundant is the life that Jesus gives that we must share it with the WIEWs of the world. Something to think about the next time you sit next to a vacant seat.

Someday when the conductor of Heaven’s train cries, “all aboard,” I pray there are no vacant seats. I pray WIEW will be there with me.

Author: Ray Sanders

View more articles by Ray Sanders.

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