I was in London for a conference recently. Perhaps it was the news of the Royal baby or the sunniness of Spring, but London seemed to be in a really good mood. There was an air of expectation, lots of good cheer between strangers and as we meandered through Green Park, we were met by others, cheerfully strolling and chatting, on a relatively calm Spring’s eve.
On our way home, my friend and I popped out to her local for dinner…and then it began.
We were sipping glasses of chilled Pinot when my friend’s neighbour walked by. I scooted up my booth seat so he could sit down for a chat. Out of nowhere he brings up the subject of God. He wasn’t sure if he believed, he struggled with loneliness and felt cut off. What did we think? Stepping gingerly into the subject, I said that I was a Christian and yes, for my whole life, I’d had a sense that God was there. We chatted for another few minutes and then abruptly, he was up and off home.
My friend and I continued to chat. She got up to order food at the bar and when she returned 10 minutes later, she was followed by another chap she’d been chatting to while waiting in line. He pulls up a seat at our table and my friend mentions something about going to church.
‘Oh??’ His whole body is alert. ‘You go to church?’
Yes…and she tells him where. He jumps straight in, with the news he’d been very, very ill and had been forced to confront his own mortality. Is it possible that God loved him? That God was real?
As I sat there, slightly in awe of two chats in such a brief space of time, I just knew I needed to tell him one thing; You are loved.
I said it out loud. He smiled and said he knew ‘someone somewhere was looking out for him’.
We ate our meal and later, on the short walk home, stopped at a corner shop for milk. My friend knew the chap serving and thought he seemed quite down.
Are you ok?
No, not really.
Why? What’s wrong?
Well, why don’t you come to church sometime…it’s just up the road.
Hhmmm. Maybe. Thanks for asking if I’m ok though.
Later, over cuppas, we realised that in just 3 hours, we’d spoken to 3 very different people, who had somehow chosen that moment to be vulnerable and tell us what was going on in their lives.
That never happens. Well, not to me anyway. But actually, when I thought about it later, maybe it could happen to me more often, if I opened my eyes?
Like most of us, I’m usually rushing from thing to thing. How often do I really stop to chat to the man in the food queue at the pub, or in the corner shop? For me at least, all too often those people are just part of my environment and I’ve never really thought that a casual chat, could lead to such lovely vulnerability.
I think those opportunities may be around us much more than we think. Maybe we just need to open our eyes.