I see a man sitting on a bench waiting for something. A train it seems. It is pouring down rain but yet he sits there waiting what seems to be patiently. Only he knows if he is frustrated or cold or angry. Only he knows why he chooses not to come into the shop and watch out of the window where I wait.
I wonder where he is going. Does he know? Does he care? He doesn’t care about being drenched so maybe he doesn’t care about where the train will take him either.
I wonder if he feels alone. Does he welcome the thought of being alone or dread it? Maybe he is catching the train to meet someone. Maybe they will laugh together and share stories of times past. But why does he wait in the rain? Won’t he be cold and uncomfortable when he finally arrives? Won’t that dampen the laughter and make him want to skip parts of the old stories? Why does he wait alone?
I wonder if it is my job to wait with him. Has God put me in this place, at this time, not to wonder so much about the man but to talk with him?
I have never actually been to this part of town; and I did not set out to come this way today. It was such a beautiful morning. I found myself walking, led by an unknown curiosity of what lay ahead. At the first drops of rain I took refuge in the little shop; the one where I now wait. Is it God’s timing for me to be here now? Is it His plan for me to interact with the man in the rain while he waits? Oh dear, I don’t want to sit in the cold rain and make small talk while we wait for a train that may or may not come. What will I say to him? What if he doesn’t want my company? Then I, too, will just be wet and cold.
If only the rain would stop. Then I might visit with him, find out where he is going. Then I could do so comfortably.
Oh look, here it comes – his train. I watch him rise and climb aboard. He turns just after clearing the top step. He is an elderly gentleman, frail. His eyes are dark and worn. He looks lost and alone but not afraid. I watch him seat himself next to a window but he does not turn to look back at me. The seat beside him remains empty.
It was then that I looked up and noticed the destination on the train window. Panic instantly flooded my being. Oh wait, there are truths that I could have shared with you! Truths that would have allowed you to board another train with a glorious destination. I ran out of the shop in the direction of the train but it was too late. It was already pulling from the station. I had missed it! I had missed my chance; the reason behind God’s placement of me in that spot. I had missed it because I was too afraid of getting cold or wet. All I could do now was watch as the train disappeared into the haze. The picture of the frail man who sat alone in the train embedded forever in my memory.
God had sent me to that shop not to analyze the man in the rain but to sit by him; to hold his hand while he waited and comfort him; to encourage him and help guide his destination. A destination that might have been glorious had I been more willing. But I had been far too worried about being cold and wet and I had missed it.
So often I look for obvious opportunities to minister to others. Physical or financial needs are great examples. When we know someone is hungry we take them a meal. When we know they are stranded we offer a ride. Both wonderful, much needed and very Biblical ways to minister.
To minister to those I don’t know or to meet a spiritual need, is not always as obvious. It is not that the desire is not there. I just let insecurity overtake me or I question whether it is really God’s voice leading me, putting me in that spot at that time. And as a result, I have missed it – numerous chances to help someone wait out the rain.