Frequent Flyer Blues

By Deidra Riggs

April 2, 2018

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11


I used to travel a lot. I had a full-time job that required me to take frequent flights. At the same time, my writing and speaking afforded opportunities to travel to conferences and retreats on a pretty regular basis. I was doing so much flying that a friend convinced me to go ahead and sign up for those frequent flyer programs. You know the ones I’m talking about, right? In exchange for a few choice bits of personal information (name, phone number, email address), I received a frequent flyer number from a few different airlines. I used these numbers each time I booked a flight and earned rewards points whenever I traveled.

The view from an economy class seat in an airplane cabin.Over time, the rewards added up. First, the fee to check my bag was waived. Then, my boarding position was upgraded incrementally, beginning at Zone 5 and, with each flight, my boarding status eventually coasted right past Zone 1 to the secretly coveted Priority Zone. Soon, I was receiving text messages on my cell phone, notifying me I had been upgraded from Business Class to First Class! What in the world? “Why yes,” I learned to say to the flight attendant without a hint of hesitation, “I will take a free on-board beverage as we wait for the others to board.”

Once, as I awaited the long procession of Economy Class flyers to board, I snapped a photo of my new boots and shared the photo on Instagram. A six-foot friend of mine responded with, “How did you get so much leg room on that plane?!?!” I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was flying First Class. Again.

Soon enough, I became smug about my newly-acquired flying status. I’d sink back in my First Class seat and thank the good Lord I no longer had to fly in the back of the plane, near the bathroom, experiencing the full effects of every bit of in-flight turbulence.

So, imagine my surprise when, after a year of no more travel, I booked a flight to visit family and found myself demoted to Zone 5. Economy Class. Surely there must be a mistake. I’m not one of “those people” who wait at the very end of the line until everyone else has boarded. I don’t sit near the bathroom. I store my carry-on in the overhead bin; I don’t check it on the jetway! But, it was true. A year of no traveling meant a year of no earned rewards.

Just like that, my airline status was gone. After everyone else boarded the plane, it was finally my turn—me and one other person relegated to Zone 5. And, not only was my seat near the bathroom, it was also the center seat in a row of three. My ego was sufficiently checked.

It’s easy to get used to being put on a pedestal. We may say we don’t want to be on a pedestal, but the benefits of pedestal living are hard to resist once we start to experience them. I’ve heard it said that we weren’t made for fame. I think that’s true.

Only a few of us can truly handle position and power well. In fact, Jesus was our best example. Knowing he had the equivalent of every frequent flyer reward money could buy—and then some—Jesus, instead, chose the center seat at the back of the plane, right next to the bathroom.

Something to Think About:

Why was it important for Christ to humble himself in such a way? What would it mean for you to follow his lead?

Something to Do:

The next time you have the opportunity, choose the worst seat instead of the best. Go to the end of the line instead of the front. Make sure others at the table are fed before you eat. Sleep on the lumpy side of the bed. Buy the store brand of toilet paper.


Lord, thank you for wanting to teach me the value of humility. Keep me from becoming smug in my comfort—from thinking it’s something I’ve deserved or earned on my own. Make me willing to take a back seat in places where I’ve become accustomed to pedestal living without even realizing it. Thank you for the beautiful example of Christ’s humility. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Do Your Work in a Worthy Manner (Philippians 1:27–2:11)

Deidra Riggs

Writer & Author

Deidra Riggs is a national speaker, an editor, and the founder and host of Jumping Tandem: The Retreat, a bi-annual event for writers, authors, and entrepreneurs. She is a storyteller who creates safe space for navigating...

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