By Shari Ausley, Life Model Works Board Member

Bio: Shari Ausley is a new empty-nester. In 2005 she started a K-12 Christian school in central Florida, a member of Ambleside Schools International. Prior to that she was in full-time Christian service with Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ). She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Life Model Works. Before transitioning to the next phase life has in store, she is enjoying an interim season that involves designing and building a new home, tending to her soul, Cross-fit, swimming, reading, and rest.

Recently my 18-year-old daughter and I returned to the east coast from a trip to California. An older man took the open seat next to me for the final 4.5 hour leg of our cross-country trek. As he did, I immediately noticed a pervasive, musty smell that made me feel disgust; my face tightened and my breath shortened. However, I still saw him as a person and chatted pleasantly with him as row-mates often do when settling in before take off. 

After several minutes I felt myself reaching capacity by the man’s persistent and familiar talk, as if we were to be buddies for the duration of the flight. When our departure time came and went, he became agitated. He grumbled incessantly for 20 minutes about the flight delay, and slandered every employee on the airplane with expletives to spare. He said all these things in a tone just low enough to avoid intervention by the flight crew, but loud enough for me and my daughter to hear clearly.

I was consciously resisting dropping into enemy mode; I knew the odor and the obnoxious talk were mere weaknesses. I also easily appreciated the truth that this man is made in God’s image, so I took several deep breaths and thought the best I could do in this situation was to pray for him. 

Lord, however this man’s malfunction came about—whether through his own choices, and/or trauma he has received, I pray that in the time he has left, he moves closer to what you intended for him when you made him. 

After this I had no difficulty seeing the man for who he really is regardless of his malfunction. I was peaceful and unfazed when he offered to buy me and my daughter a drink. And again, when he commented raucously on my wedding ring. My daughter and I debriefed on the car ride home from the airport—I remain grateful she did not endure that experience alone.

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