Do you fly often? I’ve noticed that people usually have strong opinions about airports: either they loathe airports for the chaos, inconvenience, and stress – or they love them! Because there really is something special about an airport. I can get emotional watching airport interactions. And some of the long layovers I’ve had over the years (like a 14-hour layover in Seoul!) have definitely given me the chance to watch these interactions with fresh curiosity.
At an airport, humanity is exposed to a degree that we don’t often get to see in our daily life. It’s the place where that certain, special moment happens: someone is either officially leaving or officially returning!
Loved ones leap into each others’ arms with tears streaming down their faces – past petty arguments forgotten. Wandering souls, either lost-looking or full of confidence, carry only a bag or two, full of raw nerves or grinning at the hope of awaited adventures. Huge groups of parents and siblings stand with homemade “Welcome Home!” signs, waiting for teens returning from a mission trip. And then those teens emerge, riding down an escalator with a mixture of joy and new, heart-wrenching knowledge on their faces. Concerned grown children carefully usher elderly parents through the crowd. Weary travelers scroll through their phones, searching for words and pictures from those they’re separated from.
But the best of the best is what is called airport joy. Airport joy is rich, raw, true emotion. And it is palpable. Airport joy is that moment when you are finally reunited with someone you love. Whether it was two days, two years or two decades, the aching wait is over. Whatever missing or misshapen puzzle pieces were in your heart are sealed, fitted, fresh again. You can’t find a much more powerful emotion than that.
I recently was in a class at church where the speaker introduced us to this concept of airport joy. He referred to two guys who had gone on a huge cross-country road trip, and who studied places along the way that had “the highest emotional real estate.” Where did people experience the most intense emotions? these men asked. Our speaker had us guess where the highest emotional real estate in the country is. One man called out, The ocean? Nope. A woman guessed, The Grand Canyon? People are filled with awe there. Nope, not that either. The answer? AIRPORTS. People experience the greatest emotions at an airport.
It’s that sense of coming home. Reconnection. A fresh start. Familiarity. Joy. Hope. Gratitude. The ache gone. And oh, the smiles.
Our speaker went on to tell us: this is what heaven must be like. Heaven, at the end of our race when we run into our Savior’s arms, will bring us the ultimate sense of airport joy. Can you even imagine? I can’t even type this without tears springing to my eyes. First of all, oh the joy at being reunited with grandparents and parents and siblings and babies we loved and lost. That first moment of eye contact and recognition and pure joy! But most of all, think of the worship and wonder at being fully known but fully loved we will feel when we finally meet Jesus face to face.
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul.
Now this, friends, this the kind of airport joy we can each look forward to. And oh, I can’t wait.