The Look in His Eyes
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We sat and observed the people as they passed. Most were laughing and visiting with family and friends as they too, waited to catch their plane.
I watched as a lone figure passed in front of us. He took a seat across the aisle, placing a duffel bag at his feet. I studied him for a moment and my heart began to ache. He let his gaze drift above us.
I will never forget that solemn expression. It was a vacant, almost haunting look present in his eyes that somehow drew me to him repeatedly over the next few minutes.
He sat, staring almost without seeing, at the television in front of him. The channel was the news and I listened to the reporter’s words, telling about the war and fighting in Iraq. He sat quietly, absorbed in his own world unaware of the busy activity of the crowds.
Although people passed by him, even in front of him, his focus never drifted from the screen suspended from the ceiling. He appeared to be in his early to mid thirties and clean cut. His hair was neatly cropped and his face held no trace of whiskers. He was dressed in the traditional green army fatigues with laced up boots on his feet. From the thoughtful expression on his face, I could tell that he knew of what the reporter spoke of from a personal experience.
While I watched him, I felt God’s spirit whisper to me. Go, talk to him, the voice said. I sat in shock because of these words. I had not expected them.
I turned to look at my daughter and began small talk with her, hoping that the voice would leave. I didn’t know what to say to the young man, a complete stranger. Still, through our conversation, the nudging of God stirred me once again. But God, I began, trying to make excuses, I wouldn’t know what to say.
The feeling became stronger and I asked my daughter, “Do you see that soldier over there?” She let her eyes wander to where he was sitting and said, “Yes.” “God is telling me to go and talk to him and I don’t know why.” Without blinking an eye, she turned to look at me and promptly replied, “Well, then you’d better go.”
The force of her words jolted through me. I remember slowly rising to my feet, praying that God would give me the right words because at that moment I couldn’t remember my name, let alone know what to tell the man that had made no eye contact whatsoever with anyone. Making my way toward him, I sat on the vacant chair next to him. His eyes never left the screen in front as I asked quietly, “Coming or going?”
For the first time, he shifted slightly and turned, glancing over toward the people walking nearby.
“Coming.” he whispered softly.
“For how long?” I asked in the same quiet tone.
“Six weeks home and then I go back.”
“Where are you stationed?”
I turned then to nod my head toward the television and asked, “Is it as bad as what they are saying?”
“Some areas, yes. But most are good and getting better. I wish they would report some of the good things we are doing so people can see our cause and why we are there.”
I let his words sink in a moment before I continued, “Were you in bad areas?”
“No, I was lucky.” I glanced at his name on his uniform and noticed it was Ryan*. I felt God prodding me once again and I quietly said his name.
“Ryan, can I ask you something?”
“Yes.” he said, letting his eyes drop to study the polished boots on his feet.
“Would it be alright if, when God brings you to my mind, I say a prayer for you and your family?” Something changed. He shifted, looked me directly in the eyes for the first time and smiled. Not a small, uncertain smile, but one that lit his whole face.
“Yes, of course. We would really appreciate it.”
“I will, and Ryan,” I told him before rising, “may God richly bless you and your family for serving and fighting for our country.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” he said, his eyes now filled with something more than that haunting look; they were filled with thankfulness, perhaps at the knowledge that someone cared and appreciated him.
I returned to my seat and felt the very presence of God surround me as I glorified Him. I had tears in my eyes and had to gather my composure before I could tell my daughter of what had happened. We watched as he boarded the plane and we followed a short time later. His eyes met mine as we took our seats and he smiled and nodded.
After we landed in Pittsburg, tears were present once again as we watched not only his joyful reunion with his wife and children, but witnessed his parents greet and embrace him. I was thankful that he had such a support system to return home to and once again I praised God.
It has been over two years and I still think of Ryan and pray for him and his family. I placed him in God’s care that day, knowing he could be in no better hands. I don’t know what impact, if any, that conversation at the airport had on him, but I know how it made a difference in my life.
A small act of obedience blessed me beyond measure. I had no idea what words I would say, but God gave me the right ones. I have found that if I take the first step, God will continue the journey. He gives us what we need, when we need it, if we are faithful to Him. That’s the hard part though, the first step.
If I had not been obedient, I would have missed out on the blessing of talking with a very special young man and of being able to pray for him and his family. God placed us at that airport that day, in the same terminal, and on the same plane for a reason. And that reason was to further His gospel of love.
*Names and placed have been changed
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