I boarded the flight bound for Memphis, TN and walked down the narrow aisle to my seat. With my ticket in hand and youngest son in tow, I was eager to find a resting place to take a load off. I neared my row and glance up at the numbering on the overhead compartment to confirm that I was in the right place. Indeed, I was. I looked at the seat number listed on my ticket and saw a man settled in. He peered intently into the sports section of his newspaper. The paper, billowing in front of him like a large storybook, covered the majority of his face. I stood beside the row of padded bucket seats for a moment looking back and forth from my ticket to the overheard compartment and back again.
Yep, I was in the right place.
I nervously shifted from one foot to the other trying to figure out the most tactful way to pry this man from his comfortable, settled position and into his own seat. My anxiety escalated when the man dropped the paper down towards his knees. He peered into it over his black-rimmed glasses. Those eyes. I’d seen them before. That face. It had flashed before me on television once or twice. In just a few more seconds I was certain; this man was famous. I couldn’t remember his name or why he was so well known, but I knew he was “somebody.” I figured I’d let my husband handle this.
Lugging our baggage, Jerry came up behind me. I whispered, “That famous man is in my seat!” My sports fanatic husband’s eyes widened with emotion as he looked squarely into the face of Pat Riley—one of the most well-known and beloved coaches in the NBA. “Mr. Riley,” my husband gingerly began, “I hate to bother you sir but I think you may be in my wife’s seat.”
The coach lifted his kind eyes in our direction for the first time. He looked at us over the tops of his glasses for a moment and then began to dig for his ticket. It emerged, creased and crumpled, from his pant pocket. His shocked expression spoke volumes before he’d even said a word. He apologized, smiled, got his belongings, and patted me on the shoulder as he made his way to his correctly assigned accommodations.
I felt important. This man was well known and liked. He’d achieved success and wealth that most would never know. His face had appeared in countless magazines and media outlets. His skill in his chosen field was applauded by the masses and his list of friends and associates boasted the names of the most famous among us. And yet, he had to give up his seat.
Despite all he has achieved and all he was known for, there were no resumes being read, achievements being listed or successes being numbered to determine seat assignment. He had no choice but to go to the place that had been allocated for him. All that mattered on this flight . . . was the number printed on his ticket.
Generation after generation, many have sought to assure their eternal seat assignment based on what they have accomplished. Millions have achieved a measure of success and boast a list of achievements that would impress anyone. They are kind people who are good natured and respected by many. They are certain that their ticket is marked Heaven because they can’t imagine they’ve done enough evil to deserve an eternity in hell.
And yet, no resumes will be read, no list of achievements discussed, and no associations admired when time ends and eternity begins. On that great day, the trumpet will sound and, certain that they are in the right seat, they’ll pull out their ticket with a presumptuous smirk and truly examine it for the first time. The shock of disappointment and then the horror of their eternal reality will send a menacing chill down their spine. Then, a seating change will occur.
And far too many will find themselves on the wrong side of the dividing line between heaven and hell.
What will your ticket say?
Are you sure?
Today, is the day to take a closer look…tomorrow may be too late.
Jesus said, “ I am the way, and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” – John 14:6