An upgrade makes all the difference when you’re flying internationally. But who can afford the first class ticket?
Mark and I spent the past week in Novi Sad, Serbia. Our trip back to the states would involve 24 hours of travel, including 3 flights. We had to get up at 3am to make sure we were on time for our first flight, so we set 3 alarms just to be sure.
Splashing cold water on our faces, we braced ourselves for the long day ahead. Sitting bolt upright for hours while our body longed to lie down and sleep had become a familiar part of our travels to Serbia. It was worth it. But it also required a certain mental toughness. As we stepped outside our hotel into the biting cold, we steeled ourselves. A cup of coffee? Not for at least 2 hours. Breakfast? Probably not until the second flight.
It didn’t get easier as the day progressed. Random COVID testing made us late for our gate. When we heard our name over the public address system, we broke into a run, overcoats flapping, roller luggage rattling violently.
No Hope of an Upgrade
Mark flies a lot of miles every year. That gives him status in the airline and access to a waiting list for upgrades. He had made sure we were on the upgrade list. But upgrades are few and there are many ahead of him in line. He rarely gets one. But why not try?
As we had checked the list throughout the previous 24 hours, we had not budged. First thing that morning he’d told me to prepare myself for the long day ahead, especially the 9 1/2 hours of the “over the pond” portion. I knew how that would start. I would try to make the best of it, implementing a plan to deal with swollen ankles, a 3% incline of my seat, and a blur of meals offered when my body craved only one thing.
We arrived breathless at the gate, ready for a scolding from the frauline gate agent. Instead she smiled. “Mark Lauterbach?” My husband nodded. “Congratulations, you have been upgraded to first class!” She handed him a new boarding card.
“No!” he insisted, turning to me. “I want you to take the seat.” For a few minutes we had what my counselor friend called an “unfight,” each of us insisting that the other take the seat of privilege. I was determined to win because Mark had been preparing and teaching all week, but he wouldn’t back down.
Finally the gate agent exclaimed, “Wait…the second upgrade has just come through!” No time to print a new boarding pass, so she crossed out my seat number and wrote the new assignment. “Enjoy your flight,” she murmured with an uncharacteristically broad grin.
From 20E to 1A
I looked down at my edited boarding card so I could find my seat. Originally I had been placed in the dead center of row 20, which meant I would probably be hemmed in, with two people on either side of me. Climbing over laps and limbs every time I needed to stretch my legs or attend to my needs. Squished between broad shouldered men of Germanic descent (one of whom is my husband).
But when I looked at my boarding card, I saw 20E crossed out and 1A penciled in. 1A? I had just been elevated to the first seat on the plane. The place of highest privilege. Not only was I in first class, I had been moved to the seat closest to the galley. I could ask for anything I wanted without getting out of my seat or even pushing a call button.
What did I do to deserve this? I married Mark, who makes all our travel arrangements and shares the rewards of his frequent travels with me. For me fewer miles means fewer privileges. But because I’m with him, I receive benefits that I haven’t actually earned. Like getting upgraded, not just to first class, but to the first seat in first class.
That’s when I thought of Jesus’ Ascension, because, the Biblical fact is this: I’m with Him.
Upgraded with Christ
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Colossians 3:1
Being upgraded on a flight is fun, but it’s nothing like the promotion we received when Jesus ascended.
Received? Past tense? Yes. Jesus’ elevation from death to life to the highest throne is our promotion, not just someday, but right now. Though our bodies aren’t there yet, our heart is already there. In fact the Apostle Paul uses Jesus’ ascension as the basis for his encouragement to the Colossian Christians. My question is this:
How can we take these words to heart so that the potential good news became a living reality? Here are three ways:
First, we need to understand that “He’s with me.” When Jesus willingly left heaven in order to save us, he had to become like us. We’ve heard fairy tales about powerful spirits who mask their power by becoming very small. Aladdin is one such example, with the genie living in a lamp until he is released by someone who unwittingly rubs the lamp. The genie lived in his cramped prison unwillingly, but Jesus limited himself to a physical body not just for a short time, but forever after. His continuing incarnation is good news for you and me today.
Second, we need to realize that “I’m with him.” By faith I’m united to my Savior as intimately as a bride to her groom. With Mark this meant that I could benefit from his platinum status on United. With Christ it means that I am an immediate and direct beneficiary of each part of his saving work. His death for sin becomes my death. A complete payment for sins past, present, and future. His resurrection is my resurrection. A new life in him that begins spiritually, but will be physical.
Third, because Jesus took his body with him, redeemed humanity is already there. That means our hopes are there. Our minds. Our hearts.
Let’s live today like it’s true. Because it is.