Passports and Sovereignty

We just returned from an incredible family vacation to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I love taking my family on great vacations.  We try and make our vacations memorable. In Cabo we snorkeled, went sailing, swam with dolphins, rode ATVs on the beach, ate great food at fun restaurants, and stayed in a nice resort. It was an awesome vacation...that almost did not happen.

We did not have an easy time getting to Mexico...because I am an idiot.  Last year we went out of the country by boat which means my two younger kids did not need a passport to leave the country.  I assumed the same was true when leaving the country by air.  BIG mistake.  When we arrived at the airport at 5:00 am on Saturday morning, we were informed all three kids needed passports.  I was in shock.  I had made a huge mistake.

What is ironic is that I normally research things to death and still cannot believe something so obvious slipped my attention. It looked like our much anticipated vacation might not happen. But to make a long story short, our vacation was delayed by 3 days and we spent 8 hours and an extra couple of hundred dollars getting expedited passports for the kids on Monday.  We also had to rent a car, drive back to Decatur in one day to get a notarized approval form and stay 2 nights in a hotel in Atlanta. It was quite the ordeal.

Needless to say, we were ready for vacation once we got to Mexico.

One thing I noticed during our entire ordeal is how quickly we Christians love to assign responsibility to God.  Our immediate response in these type of moments is to maintain that God has some divine reason for our vacation being delayed.  Was the plane going to crash and God decided to spare us and not everyone else on the plane? (The answer was no by the way).  Did we avoid some type of tragedy?  Did we get to Cabo on Tuesday so we could reschedule Monday's excursions when it poured rain in Cabo?  Maybe but that sounds so trivial to me.

My personal belief is that we did not get on that plane on Saturday for one primary reason: I am an idiot.  I did not do my research and realize every person, regardless of age, has to have their own individual passport to leave this country by air.  I am not going to assign blame to God for my stupidity. 

Here's what I realized. When we arrived at the Atlanta same day passport agency on Monday (the only one within hundreds of miles), I realized that there were dozens of people in the same boat as us.  Some had a slight tear or water stain on their passport.  Some ignored their expiration date.  Some people flying into Europe did not book their ticket within 3 months of expiration.  And on and on and on. Every person had a story. Every person missed a flight. Every person was supposed to be somewhere else at that moment in time.  And yet there we all stood - waiting in the same line for the same basic purpose.  Did God cause each one of us to miss our flights for some supernatural reason? Maybe? Maybe not?  Maybe we are all just idiots who forgot to do our research.

Those who know me well know that I am more reformed in my personal theology.  What that means in short is that I have a high view of God's absolute sovereignty in all matters.  I believe God is in absolute control and nothing catches God off guard.  But I also believe that God allows for stupidity.  God in His sovereignty gives room for flawed humans to make dumb mistakes.  And I even believe He allows these type events to happen without some bigger supernatural reason driving it. Sometimes God just allows stupid to happen.

At the same time, I also know that the Bible is clear that God cares about the very details of our lives. God was not indifferent or unconcerned about what happened to us. So in one sense, there is a sovereign reason we missed our flight.  But perhaps the sovereign reason was to teach us to be better prepared or to teach us patience. After all, have you ever stood in a government agency line for 8 hours?  Maybe it was a simple teaching tool to help shape us as individuals.

Let me put this whole scenario into more focus.  After arriving in Mexico on Tuesday, I learned that my mother who went in for a somewhat routine surgical procedure that day stopped breathing for 2-3 minutes during her recovery.  If my dad had not been present in the room when it happened, we are not sure she would have survived.  It was a surreal moment for sure.  Some people would look at this situation and think perhaps God was trying to keep us home for that reason.  Really?  So we one-upped God and figured out a way to get there even though He wanted us to stay?  Sounds like kind of a weak God who can get one-upped by an idiot who forgot to do his research.

Here's reality: God is in absolute control.  He is in control when we make stupid mistakes. He is in control when your loved one stops breathing.  He is in control of missed flights as well as life and death situations.  His purposes will be fulfilled in everyday life.

I am not sure God caused us to miss our flights on that Saturday for some life-altering supernatural purpose but I do know that God cares about the details of life and works through the normal to shape us.  In other words, God works through and in our stupidity to make us more dependent on Him and less dependent on us.

This vacation was one of those trips where things seemed to go a different direction than we planned.  We were almost expecting things to happen. As a matter of fact, my wedding band is lying somewhere at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes life just happens - even on vacation. And yet through it all, we had one of our best vacations ever.

And guess what? God was in control the entire time - even when I was an idiot.

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