Living in central London has many benefits, but having to travel on the tube in rush hour is not one of them. Crowded, hot and uncomfortable, my 20 minute tube journey is not the favourite part of my day. Business men intent on getting home, mums with buggies on a mission to keep their children quiet, shoppers weighed down with bags, regretting how much they have just purchased.
However as I got on the tube today, my journey was slightly different. After several stations, an elderly woman, bag in one hand and her Bible in the other came to sit next to me. Instead of observing the unwritten rules of the tube, she smiled. Her face wasn’t void of expression; she wasn’t in a world of her own but was looking round the carriage, interested in her travel companions for the immediate future. Breaking the tube’s ultimate unwritten rule, she turned to me and started a conversation, asking me where I was going. A little stunned I mumbled that I was at university and on my way to a lecture, and for the next five minutes we continued to chat. As we pulled into the next station, she stood up; turning to me she smiled and wished me a lovely day. With that she stepped off the train and disappeared into the sea of people focused on reaching the escalators first.
If we want people to have a hope for the future we need to start impacting their present, going against the rules of social etiquette and not being scared of stepping out.
As the train pulled away I started to wonder why a simple chat with a stranger was such a rare occurrence. Have we as a people in the twenty-first century lost the ability to communicate without the help of electronic devices? Although this has wider implications for society, it is even more worrying for the church. Not once has it crossed my mind to break the rules of tube etiquette to smile at other passengers, to stop focusing on my own day and take time to impact someone else’s.
Although the Bible in her hand and cross around her neck made it evident she was a Christian, we didn’t talk about God; she was living out God’s message rather than just telling me about it. There are times for conversations about God, times for discussions and explanations, but it seemed this woman understood that in everything we do we’re called to reflect Him.
A smile, a simple word of encouragement, a helping hand, all these little things can sometimes seem unimportant, but when everyone else is focused on their own life, in their own day to day routine, these little things stand out. If we want to see broken people restored, our lives should point to the one who makes complete restoration possible. If we want people to have a hope for the future we need to start impacting their present, going against the rules of social etiquette and not being scared of stepping out. We make more impact living out a restored life than we do just talking about one.
Emma Heddle worked at Soul Survivor last year, and is currently studying Theology at university.