This past New Years my daughters and I weren’t quite ready to celebrate without Neil, so we decided to go on a cruise. A week before the trip, I received a strange message on my cell phone. It was from an executive at the cruise line, offering a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” I was certain it was one of those offers that are more trouble than they’re worth (“take a short 4 hour tour of the ship and will give you this free gift!”) but something possessed me to call back.
It really was a vice president of the cruise line, and the phone number he had given me was the direct line to his office. As soon as I told him my name, he said, “ I am so glad you called right back. I have great news!” Don’t fall for it, I starting chanting to myself, already regretting the impulsive decision to return the call. “This doesn’t happen often, but the Owner’s Suite on your ship is open and we’d like to offer it to you,” he said. “There are a few fees associated with it, but it’s not much more than the room you’ve already booked and it would be perfect for a group of girls.”
As he described it, I was drawn in…..a penthouse apartment on top of the ship with a living room, dining room, master suite with Jacuzzi tub, dressing room, a large balcony that looked out over the ocean, and lots of special valet services -no waiting in lines, no carrying bags, complementary daily room service. It really did sound like a fantastic offer and there were no strings attached that I could see, so with just a little bit of trepidation, I agreed.
The sense of being a VIP started even before we left the airport at home. By some lucky coincidence we were all airport security pre-approved. No taking off shoes, no emptying bags, we waltzed right past a line of people being searched at security. Our luggage was taken directly to the penthouse. When we arrived at the ship’s terminal, we were greeted outside by a steward and escorted past the line of people waiting to board the ship, past the line of people waiting to check in, and even past the line of people waiting for an elevator to their cabins.
The penthouse was behind an unmarked door at the top of the ship. Tucked away in a corner it was rather nondescript and certainly not obvious or opulent to any passerby. Once the steward unlocked the door, though, we were in a whole new world. A glass outer wall looked out over the ship’s deck as promised. The interior walls were lined with mirrors, so the ocean was reflected everywhere I looked. Champagne was chilling at the bar. The king sized bed took up only half of the huge master suite, and the Jacuzzi tub was almost three feet deep. The dressing room literally was a room, and mirrors covered its walls, making it easy to be sure we all looked our best.
Looking our best seemed important each night when we were escorted into the ship’s main dining room and became special guests of the maître de. Each day, people looked up from the pool level, curious about the famous people in the penthouse. Some were subtle, some more obvious, and I gave my best princess wave to quite a few of them. Once a group tried to follow us behind our unmarked door, wondering where it led. “Sorry, this is our apartment,” one of my daughters said happily.
We were only on the ship for a few days, but that was plenty of time to adapt to the lifestyle of the rich and famous. It was so easy, in fact, that we all started to think we actually were rich and famous!
It was quite a let-down when we got off the ship and were suddenly just like everyone else again. No more special treatment, no more admiring looks, no more free champagne. We waited in a long line with everyone else to get through airport security. We dragged our own luggage and had to find our own way through the terminal. After we schlepped to the gate, I noticed a Church service about to start in the little airport chapel and decided to join. While I sat there and listened to the Scripture reading, I was reminded of something I’d forgotten on the cruise.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you (Jeremiah 1:5). I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I continue my faithfulness to you (Jeremiah 31:3).
To God, every one of us is famous and rich in the gifts that matter most. Every one of us gets special treatment from him; every one of us receives his admiring gaze. God waits like the man at the airport holding a sign with my name on it. I don’t have to stand in long lines to talk to him, or carry my “baggage” all by myself. He escorts me on my journey, and even if the penthouse of my life seems plain and inconspicuous on the outside, he can help me find the light and beauty within. And God’s love is not a temporary, fickle infatuation, it is a deep, tender, and eternal devotion.
Having been caught up in the short-lived glamour of being an earthly VIP, it was good to be reminded that we are all Very Important Persons to God, and no matter what, we always will be.