So the cabin crew are serving breakfast earlier today on the overnight Flight AA54 from Chicago to Manchester. Beautifully presented boxes are handed out and I open mine to discover the delights of a Blueberry Yoghurt, a banana, a banana muffin and something called a Fruit Medley. The Fruit Medley is in a lovely salmon coloured packet, made by The Travese Bay Fruit Co, and is described on the label as ‘A premium blend of Raisins, Dried Cherries & Dried Apple Pieces’. Sounds great.
I go for the yoghurt first, which is ok but slightly lacking in blueberry flavour. The banana though has too many black bruises so I only manage half of that. I don’t fancy the banana muffin after the slightly disappointing real banana, so it’s down to the Fruit Medley to make the breakfast. I pick up the packet and try to pull it open, but can’t. I try again. And then from a different angle. I turn it upside down to open it from the bottom. Still no good. I try and try and try. Then I look around and see others having the same problem. People are fighting with theirs with all their might, trying to rip into it any way they can. Some are tackling their packet with their teeth and they seem to be having the most success. I have visions of false teeth flying around the plane and styrophone cups of hot tea knocked onto laps as Fruit Medleys eventually open. But amazingly most people seem to eventually get into theirs without too much mishap or spillage. Except for me.
I then have a an idea. I’ll ask the stewardess. After all, that’s what they’re there for. To help. So I get the attention of the probably fifty-something air hostess who’d presented me with my breakfast box, give her the Fruit Medley and ask if she can please open it for me. But her reply surprises me. Instead of the polite ‘of course, sir’ that I was expecting, she says something that I had not anticipated. She takes the said packet of Fruit Medley, holds it up high and announces to the rows surrounding me in her strong American accent, ‘What’s the matter? Not strong enough?’
I am deflated. Humiliated. Sudden feelings of inadequacy come over me. ‘Not strong enough?’
Somewhat bruised – like my banana – I reply with a simple ‘no, I can’t do it’, and put my head down as she goes off to open the packet. When it comes back it is, unfortunately, a bit of a disappointment, like the rest of the breakfast. But it’s edible and probably healthy – no doubt more healthy than bacon. But it’s not bacon. I’m sure I wouldn’t have needed help with bacon.
For a few minutes those words ‘Not strong enough?’ echo in my mind, making me think that there are lots of things in life that we are not strong enough to do on our own. We visit doctors because our bodies are weak – we can’t get better on our own. Those with an addiction only really begin to turn a corner when they ask for help, recognising that they are not strong enough on their own. We ask people to pray for us because we’re not strong enough on our own. We work in teams because we can’t do what we need to do on our own. We are stronger together.
‘Not strong enough?’ is a challenging question – especially for a man – because men want to be strong. We want to be able to manage. By nature, we don’t like showing our weakness – to women – and especially to other men. But the honest answer to ‘Not strong enough?’ is, I think, the one I gave to the air hostess: ‘No, I can’t do it’. That is a true answer. An answer that admits weakness and as such, displays an inner strength. The bible has much to say about such things and how the Lord loves to strengthen the weak (eg. Isaiah 40:30-31; 1 Cor 1:27).
How about you? What are your areas where you’re ‘not strong enough?’ Are you strong enough to admit where you are weak? Maybe today you need to open up, be honest, and ask for help. Help from God. Help from people.
Oh… just in case you’re wondering. When I took a closer look at my Fruit Medley Packet I discovered that the air hostess had also not been able to open it herself. She had used scissors – something that every air traveller has in their hand luggage. (I think not!)