Marc the Travel Agent (by John Frye)

Screen Shot 2016-10-15 at 9.10.12 AMMarc the Travel Agent, by John Frye

Marc, the part-time travel agent, sparked enthusiasm in people and closed sales on travel packages to countries he had never visited. His customers bought into his descriptions of the foreign cities and countrysides, the delicious foods and delightful smells of market stalls, the stunning architecture and cobbled streets, the intriguing language and colorful clothing, the pleasing weather and gorgeous night skies. Eager customers usually walked away saying, “It must be nice to be him—a traveler of the world.”

Marc hardly ever left his city. Once he went to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. That’s it. Yet, Marc read his way through travel brochures, memorizing good phrases and remembering dazzling pictures. Marc also roamed the Internet. He reveled in knowing that he could travel the world on the Internet. Among the travel agents, Marc, only working 20 hours a week, got the most awards. Without going anywhere.

Marc was a good Christian guy. Even more, he was a pastor. He was as attentive to his faith and its routines as he was to his sales job. He studied his Bible, he listened to scholarly talks on the Internet, he read the best commentaries, he served his little church faithfully, and occasionally served in the city’s soup kitchen for indigents. Marc wasn’t shy to talk about his church at Rotary Club and while playing golf with other salespersons. Sometimes his friends would comment, “That Marc, he sure is a good fellow; a kind, religious guy. He sure knows his way around the Bible.”

Marc was good, but had never really visited God much either. As he had never visited Italy. What Marc had going was that he was good with words. He had a winning, whimsical way about him. He was very good at weaving an inviting story about Paris and a fascinating story about the Apostle Peter. Reading brochures and reading the Bible gave Marc the ability to sell a trip and to sell a lie. Marc wanted to be liked, but he didn’t want to be known. When people would ask, after one of his fascinating travel descriptions, “Have you actually been to Sydney, Australia?” Marc would simply say, “Oh! It’s such a beautiful city! And what a country.”

One day, Bradley, the founder and manager of Pleasant World Tours, the company Marc worked for, called Marc in for a conversation. The company was opening a new in-country extension of their business in Frankfurt, Germany. Bradley insisted on sending Marc for the opening of PWT’s new branch. “You’ll be leaving Monday. The trip’s booked and all your expenses covered. Anything you have to spend out of pocket will be reimbursed. Enjoy the trip, Marc.” Marc’s pleasure at being asked smothered underneath the anxious dread he felt. He had to really travel.

The Delta flight went fast and the jet was touching down in Germany. After deplaning and taking the shuttle bus to the Frankfurt terminal, Marc stood bewildered in the bustling airport hallways. Foreign, unintelligible words rang out from the speakers announcing flights and other information. This startled him. Marc saw no signs that he could read. He heard many different languages from the groups of people walking by him. He asked several people if they spoke English and they shook their heads no.

He was afraid. “Where’s my luggage? How do I get a taxi? How do I tell them where my hotel is? How do I pay? Will they take my US dollars?” Marc felt sweaty and very sick. He was all alone. He had no words to describe Frankfurt, Germany to himself. He had, however, exuberantly sold to others at least 15 trips to various German cities, including Frankfurt.

Marc moved from the hallway to a near-by gate area and sat down. The people in that gate had boarded so the space was empty except for two from the airport cleaning crew. It felt safe from the alien roar of the airport terminal.

“What am I going to do?” Marc thought sitting bent over and holding his head in his hands. No charming words. No fabulous descriptions. No sales to make. No image to maintain. “I’m good at selling things that I have no clue about,” he concluded as he endured a sharp pain in his soul and felt its sting in his eyes.

God sat down next to Marc. Invisible, yet more real than the chair Marc sat on. Marc sensed somewhere in his brain a Voice.

“Marc, you can sell what you don’t know, but you can’t love what you don’t know. You don’t love Germany right now, do you?”

Marc coughed out a garbled laugh saying out loud, “No, I don’t!” Embarrassed, he looked up and saw one of the cleaners warily staring at him. Almost involuntary Marc shouted to the cleaner, “Do you speak English?” The cleaner nodded.

“Would you help me? I’m lost.”

The small, old woman came over and sat by Marc.

“How can I help you, sir?”

Marc explained his plight to the lady.

After the conversation with and direction from the old cleaning woman, Marc found himself with his luggage in a taxi headed to his hotel. He discovered that the new PWT branch was just a city block from where he was staying.

That night a thought kept rumbling around in Marc’s mind as he lay in the hotel bed. “You can sell what you don’t know, but you can’t love what you don’t know.”

Marc said, “God, if you are here. I want to love you. Will you love me?”

The Voice answered, “I already love you, Marc. To love me back, I want the real you. Will you let me love that person? Will you lay down your fear of being fully known?”

“Yes, God,” Marc whispered into the dark.

Kindly the Voice said, “Be prepared to be frightened for awhile as you discover your authentic self. Taking off masks clued to your soul is a painful process. It won’t be easy. It will feel very much like a trip to a foreign place. Marc, love is never a sales pitch.”

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.