As I arrived at Waterloo today I pulled out my trusty iPhone, and on the way up the escalator checked my National Rail app. It showed me I had exactly one minute to catch the next train to my office, and told me which platform to run to. Without this app I wouldn’t even have found the station’s information board in time. So I ran.
As I breathlessly got to my seat I pulled off my earphones and smiled at the person opposite. I mumbled something like, “That was close!” and sank into my seat. She said nothing in return, but gave me one of those very British looks that say, “Don’t you dare say anything else to me. You are a stranger, and remember, we are on a train!”
It wouldn’t happen in some other cultures. But I wonder if that woman realizes how close she was this morning to someone who carries the message that could change her eternal destiny. I don’t think that she was a nasty lady at all. About ten seconds after the look she began to move her bags to make sure I had enough leg room. I smiled at her again and mumbled something like, “It’s OK, really, it’s OK, thanks.” But there was no encouragement from her to engage in a conversation.
For some reason, I did want to make a connection with this lady. I was ready to maybe gently steer the conversation onto things of God. I was looking forward, if the conversation went the right way, to perhaps even looking her in the eye and telling her I believed Jesus has risen from the dead. Perhaps she was just nervous of being chatted up. But due to the barriers erected by tradition and enforced by her steely gaze, I didn’t try again. Perhaps I should have. But I don’t think I would have got very far.
As she began to leave I had a crazy thought to say, “Nice to meet you.” But the truth is, I hadn’t met her any more than the hundreds of other people I had passed on the underground system and station platforms. So there it was. It was a very rare chance in this hermit life of mine midweek (I work from home) to get out and connect with someone. I guess I get a grade B for effort, but still I wish I could have done more.
There are many women on the train. There are many men on the train. All those faces that I barely glanced at in the crowd. No wonder Jesus wept when he saw crowds. For he saw them as they really are—like sheep without a shepherd. Behind each face lies a story. Each person trying to cope with the troubles that this day brings them, and wondering what tomorrow will hold. There are so many of them, living every day without hope, and without God in this world.
I know I can’t make anyone listen. I know I can’t make anyone believe. I know that I cannot produce spiritual life in those who are dead. But, please God, allow me opportunities to share some hope with others. And may an army of Christians again arise to serve the world in this way. I wrote this post on the train home. I can see three men sitting near me on this train. But they are all immersed in the world of their mobile phones. Maybe another day.