Faith, Hope, and Batteries

The saga of the batteries. Tale of humor. Tale of woe. How taking 24 batteries on an international flight refined my faith and made me question my sanity. 

Our story begins on the drive to the Dar es Salaam airport when I realized that I forgot to leave a box of batteries at the mission house. Being the anxious rule-follower that I am, I quickly looked up Emirates airline’s battery policy. It said, “Batteries… must be carried in carry-on baggage only… Each passenger is limited to a maximum of 20 spare batteries.” Ha! Funniest thing I’ve read in a while.

When I passed through the metal detector stationed at the airport entrance, all the batteries were divided between two carry-on bags (so that neither my husband nor I would exceed the limit). They flagged the bags for a full check and pulled out the 24 batteries in sheer amazement at my stupidity. “These belong in your checked luggage,” the screener informed me. 

I dutifully transferred them. Then it was time to go up to the counter to check in for my flight. But those batteries were really bothering me. When I signed in for my flight online, I clicked a box that said I didn’t put any batteries in my checked luggage. Now I was a liar! Whatsoever should I do?

Well, I don’t recommend this, but what I did was run the whole scenario past the gate agent, who then called his manager, who then told me that batteries are the same as “personal electronic devices” (PED), and their rule was that you could have up to 15 PEDs in each piece of checked luggage.

So now I needed to open my bags, count the batteries in front of them, and make sure I was under the limit. That was fun. 

The next scene in our saga takes place at the departure gate when my husband hears his name over the loudspeaker. Then a serious-looking police woman escorted us below the terminal to a small windowless room where a burly Tanzanian man went through every item of my husband’s luggage. Now for some unexplained reason, he had to put the 8 packaged batteries in a carry-on and leave the 4 remaining loose batteries in a checked bag. The 12 batteries in my checked bag were never mentioned. 

Don’t worry. It gets even more nonsensical. 

After our extended layover in Dubai, we went through security once again. Of course, my husband’s carry-on was flagged. The security agent reached her hand in, pulled out the batteries, clucked her tongue saying, “This is far too many,” and unceremoniously dumped them in the garbage.

We had now had four airline security professionals tell us four different things with equal amounts of confidence and certainty. Even though none of them was actually correct!

This epic journey left me wondering: What am I confident about? What is even worth being confident about? I have opinions. I have beliefs. I have books that have given me information and studies that have given me data. But what am I truly, 100% unswervingly confident about?

When I really think about it, when I really dig down deep in my soul, I have to admit that a lot of what I confidently proclaim may very well be false. People, very smart people, used to think the world was flat. Others thought the planets revolved around the earth and believed it enough to put Galileo in jail when he claimed otherwise. And on and on I could go giving examples of confidently stated beliefs that were ultimately proved false. 

I don’t even need to go back through history for examples. Turning on the TV is enough to prove the point. Every news channel has educated people with impressive resumes arguing different sides of every issue. Whether it’s meteorologists incorrectly predicting the weather or political pundits wrongly anticipating voting results, again and again we see that you don’t have to be correct to be confident. 

And, let’s be honest, I could also say the same things about many churches. Calm down and hear me out. One church is convinced that baptism requires full immersion. Another claims sprinkling is better. Both are full of Jesus-loving people who have read the Bible, some of them in the original languages. (I could continue with more examples, but I want to avoid any nasty comments, so I’ll stop there.) As my husband says, “All churches are 70% correct in their theology. It’s the 30% that we’re endlessly arguing about.”

So all of this has left me wondering, “What am I truly confident about?” Here’s what I have so far:

  1. God is love. The Bible is a love story between God and God’s beloved creation. Every story of forgiven sinners and sought-after fishermen and abundantly blessed nomads shines brightly with the great love of God. The God who creates life, gives freedom, and sacrifices everything to save us from ourselves. 

My life also speaks of this truth. I’ve felt God’s love, known God’s love, and seen God’s love in action. The love of God has strengthened me, held me, comforted me, and kept me safe. I am confident that God loves me and you and every other person on this planet. 

God’s abundant love flows from my heart to the world around me. I show my allegiance to the God of love by loving others. They should know we are Christians by our love – not by our rules or stances or controversies.

  1. God is here. God’s presence permeates everything. It’s most obvious to me in nature. A flower in bloom displays God’s love of beauty and attention to detail. A mighty oak tree shows God’s strength and power. A cooling breeze tells of God’s gentleness just like the rising sun speaks of God’s faithfulness.

It’s harder to discern God’s presence in the dark, ugly places of this world. When death, disease, and decay move into our lives, it can seem impossible to find God there. In those moments, you can’t feel or see or experience God’s loving presence. Often it’s only in hindsight that you realize the loving arms of God were right there supporting you all along. 

Knowing that God is with me right here and now puts my whole life into perspective.  I can turn to God for help any time I need it. I can be a detective of grace, searching for God in my daily life. As Mother Teresa said, I can even look for God’s presence in “the distressing disguise of the poor.” 

I could go through the Nicene Creed and tell you all the other things I believe about God. I could open the Bible and show you all the verses I cling to about God. But honestly, it is those two truths that I am most confident about. It is those two truths that I orient my life around. It is those two truths that guide my decisions and shape my days. 

God is love. God is here. That is what I strive to speak confidently about to a world so desperately in need of God’s loving presence – from Dar es Salaam to Dubai to wherever else I may go.

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Alyson Rockhold

Alyson Rockhold was a missionary in Tanzania, Haiti, and Zambia. Now she works in communications at Global Water Center. You can follow her on Instagram @alysonrockhold She and her husband live in Lafayette, CO.

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