What I Learned Sitting Beside A Muslim On An Airplane For Two Hours
This past week I was flying to Houston, TX. Normally when I fly I just like to read or catch up on work. I rarely if ever speak to who I am sitting next to. I really don’t know why. I just don’t. My plan for this flight was to be no different.
As we taxied down the runway, a delightful young woman seated next to me began a conversation. Here is how it went:
She said, “Do you live in Houston?”
“No, I live in Atlanta. I am just connecting there on my way to Dallas.”
“What are you doing in Dallas?”
“I’m just working a conference.”
“What type of conference?”
“Well, I’m working with pastors.”
“Really, what kind of pastors?” (Interesting question. Now my interest was beginning to peak.)
“Evangelical ones. Baptist, Methodist, Non-denominational, Lutheran. People like that. Do you live in Houston?”
“No, I live in Atlanta. I’m just going there for a job interview.” Then she said, “Can I ask you question?”
“So Christians believe Jesus is the end-all. Is that right?” At this point, I closed up on my book and placed it in the seatback in front of me.
After several minutes of conversation about relationships and faith, she graciously said, “Are these questions making you uncomfortable? I can stop if you want me to.”
“No, this conversation is actually quite refreshing.”
Over the next two hours, I talked more about the person of Jesus with a stranger than I have in years. The following are several things I remember most about my conversation with this young lady:
- I’m a Christian. She’s a Muslim who is dating a Christian. We discussed the challenges of inter-faith dating. They pray together often.
- I’m in my mid-40s. She’s in her mid-20s. Her culture teaches her to deeply respect patriarchal hierarchy. She kept calling me “Sir”.
- I’m white. Very white. She’s not.
- I’m a church consultant. She’s a doctor.
- I like things peaceful and calm. She thrives in trauma and chaos.
- I have a wonderful marriage of 22 years. When she one day marries, she wants it to be wonderfully successful as well. She asked me what I thought the secret to a long, happy marriage was. I told her it was not love, respect, or trust. Those things are definitely important but the secret to a successful marriage is a person, Jesus Christ.
- She LOVES Joel Osteen. Fascinating.
- We talked a lot about Jesus, the Trinity, and Jesus as a teacher.
- We talked about the Iranian culture and her time living there. We talked about President Ahmadinejad and country’s views on women, Jews, and Christians. Her perspectives were quite interesting.
- My wife is a stay-at-home mom. So is her mom.
- We both come from middle-class families.
- At one point she said, “Brian, if working in a trauma unit has taught me anything, it is that everybody dies. So live your life.” Wow!
After much conversation, we decided that though we were quite different, we are also very similar. As doctors and church consultants, we both lived our lives for the purpose of improving the quality of life for other people.
We also want to have happy marriages, raise great kids, take care of aging parents, live a joy-filled life, have successful careers, and make a signifcant contribution to society.
Our conversation was very relaxed, non-judgemental, and based on mutual respect. I was humbled by the fact that it was a Muslim who initiated a conversation with me, a Christian, about spiritual matters. We also commented on how we wish government officials could talk like we did – with respect and finding common ground in the midst of our differences.
As it came time to exit the airplane and go our separate ways, I told her I would pray for her job interview. She smiled and said, “Thank you. I appreciate it.”
I have no doubt she is a PHENOMENAL doctor serving in the ER or trauma ward. She told me she felt her strength as a physician was her bedside manner because she genuinely cares about people. I could see that. Who knows, she could possibly one day save my life or someone I love.
Here is what I also know – by closing up my book and having a genuine conversation based upon respect with someone who is different from me, I learned far more than I ever could have reading for those two hours.
Perhaps some of you need to put down your proverbial books and start a conversation with somone different from you as well.
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