I got the chance to speak at a Bible conference in Miami. On my way out, the airline delayed the flight for three hours while we sat on the runway. As I was listening to the complaints of the surrounding passengers, I thought, "Humankind had to wait thousands of years for manned air travel. So, a few extra hours in this magical metallic flying tube is no big deal."
I landed in Miami in the late afternoon and noticed that the dress code differed from Dallas. There was a lot more skin. I did my best not to stare at those who had forgotten the other half of their apparel.
The conference was underway, so we rushed to the venue. Thankfully, everyone there was clothed. I spoke about Salvation and Discipleship, which I've written a few books about. After the talk, several people said it was new to them. It's fun to hear from those who are just coming to terms with free grace.
That evening the pastor's son came to my book table. We chatted for a second before he told me, "We're going to read your book in school this year." The Christian school he attends uses our book Salvation and Discipleship for its curriculum. "Oh, neat," I said. Throughout the rest of the weekend, I spent time with him and his brother. They were great young guys.
Afterward, the pastor and his family took us, conference speakers, to a Cuban restaurant. I avoid eating late dinners, but that sweet Cuban server wasn't having it. When I ordered nothing, she insisted on bringing an empty plate. I thought it was strange but worked it out later. I think she wanted me to sample from everyone else's plates, and not have to eat on the table cloth in doing so. Now, that's a food evangelist.
The next day I used the quiet of the hotel room to work on one of my forthcoming books. I rarely get a quiet writing room with a fifth-floor view. At lunch, I followed my nose to a barbecue place. I was going to eat alone and then get an Uber to the conference venue. As I sat there like a mute hermit, I spotted some people I'd met at the conference the night before.
I spent the next hour chatting with them about their upbringing, faith, and life in Miami. Mostly, though, we talked about Hurricanes. I discovered a hurricane was barreling toward the Miami coast as we spoke. It amazed me how calm they were about it. They gave me a ride back to the conference venue, and I felt like I had made some new friends.
On arrival, I noticed about a dozen books (mostly Salvation And Discipleship) had sold. Cool! I guess the message resonated with some folks.
By the end of the conference, I still had a stack of books that hadn't yet sold. I hate flying home with books, and I figured they are more valuable on someone else's shelves than mine. I took the stack under my arm and started working my way through the mingling crowd.
I gifted as many as I sold, but it made me happy. With the conference concluded, I headed back to the hotel.
That evening I decided I ought to see some of the local sights. I went down to the hotel front desk and asked where people went for sightseeing. The junior clerk said that most went to Miami Beach. Cool, a calm, quiet walk on the beach with no distractions would be great. It does wonders for creativity.
I hopped in an Uber and headed there. In broken English, he told me, "Miami Beach not safe after dark." I'm sure I misunderstood him because I thought he was saying the place he was about to drop me off was dangerous. Nah...
The sun was going down as we arrived. Unruly people jammed the street. A gang of bike riding men were doing wheelies through the crowded traffic. It was loud. It was chaotic. It was frightening. More than once, I checked my pockets to ensure my belongings hadn't vanished. I avoided staring anyone in the eye because I'm bad in a brawl and useless at self-defense.
I walked down the beach a while, but it was cramped and noisy and full of lustful distractions. I tried walking on the street next to the beach. There were more bodies than there were clothes to cover them. I was in town for a Bible conference, not an ogling extravaganza. I walked around about ten minutes before I hitched another Uber ride and headed back. In all, the round trip cost me an hour and twenty in a silent stranger's car and about eighty bucks.
When I got back, I texted the pastor to let him know I had tried Miami beach and that my experience was all fear and trembling. He added to the trauma by saying when he was a kid, the biggest fear at Miami beach was all the used needles that were strewn around the sand. Glad to be unpunctured and back in the hotel, I went to sleep.
In the morning, I called the front desk to find out what my checkout time was. My flight was at five, but checkout: noon. "I would have a little time to kill. Maybe another trip to Miami beach…." I didn't say. I worked on my book all morning and headed to the nearby Burger King for lunch. Uber took me to the airport at around one.
How do you waste time at an international air travel hub? There's lots to do, like ride the sky tram, walk the length of the airport, ride the sky tram, buy an overpriced bottle of water, sky tram, take a nap on the ground, then back to the sky tram.
If you were a garment salesperson in Miami, you'd have a hard time making a living because half the population is less than half-clothed, even in the airport. I bet dermatologists there don't have to tell people to undress because the skin in Miami is rarely covered. It's like they were in a hurry as they were getting ready, got to the underwear step, and said, "Oh, that's good enough, I'm only going out in public." Right there in the concourse, people were dressed (or should I say undressed) for the beach. Maybe they wanted to be ready just in case climate change brings the water line to them.
I'm a married man, and I prefer to keep my eyes to myself. The Sight Transmitted Distractions (STDs) were making me weary. I love my inner monologue, and I enjoy walking through airports and listening to my own thoughts. It irritated me how many intrusions the scanty cladding of the locals was interrupting my mental meandering. I was tired of being a spectator at the flesh festival. I don't blame anyone but myself. It's my sin that causes the distraction, but I wanted it to stop.
"Lord, what am I supposed to do?" I prayed, annoyed. Then it hit me! I reached up and pulled the bottlecap glasses from my eyes. Without glasses, my myopic eyesight is about as useful as a swimsuit in the desert (or a full-length t-shirt in Miami). Once I was no longer spectacled, I felt free. Every decadent display became a blurry blob. My eyesight is so bad. I wouldn't know if a pedestrian is a fully clothed human or fungal gelatinous alien. They could be wearing normal clothes for all I know.
I was proud of my clever solution. I thought I was onto something big. I imagined how I would employ this ingenious trick at other places I might visit. Parks, festivals, concerts, even a nude beach would be safe with my eyesight. To be free of visual temptation is a wonderful thing, and my inner monologue was doing a happy dance.
As I was celebrating my brilliance, I decided it was time for a restroom stop. Coming up with innovative solutions always puts me in need of a break. I was near my gate, so I walked into the nearest bathroom without a thought.
At the entrance, I noted two blurry female custodians working to clean the restroom. I thought that's weird that they use female janitors for the men's. I bet that makes some men uncomfortable. Not me. I'm very modern, of course. I continued on. When I was in the bathroom, I noticed a fuzzy figure standing at the mirror. Since I was within five feet, I could tell that it was a woman. Strange. Although she wasn't wearing a janitorial uniform, my brilliant mind supplied a quick solve. She must be a plain-clothes custodian cleaning the...
At about the same moment my inner monologue stopped dancing and said, "Oh, I'm not where I'm supposed to be."
"You're in the women's restroom."
"Oh—" I stammered. "It's these glasses." I shoved them hard against my brow as the two janitors took up defensive positions around me as if I might attempt an extended stay. "They came off my face." Technically true, but certainly not the whole story. I skittered out and looked for some glue to permanently adhere my spectacles to my head. I didn't take them off for the rest of the trip.
I think it illustrates an idea I've written about before. If you try to make physical rules to solve spiritual problems, the rules always come up short. To intentionally impair my eyesight so I don't lust is pretty ridiculous. I need a different solution. Paul supplies:
"You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, "Don't handle! Don't taste! Don't touch!"? …These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person's evil desires." - Col 2:20-23
So, I could make a rule, "No glasses in public places." That might seem like it helps, but it doesn't fix the lustful desires that are inside me, and it will have unwanted consequences. I need a fresh approach. I need a new mindset. For more on this idea, you can read my book Things Above.
So, it wasn't long after this embarrassing lesson, I got on the plane and headed back to DFW airport. I arrived back on July 4th at sunset. As I drove home, there were fireworks exploding all around me. I thought about how I wouldn't get home, or anywhere, or enjoy my life without my glasses.
I got back to my house at midnight and laid them on my bedside table, and fell fast asleep.