A Quiet Train

Strange things happen on quiet nights and this is what happened to me one quiet night.

I’m in the city of Sydney on my own, hoping for a nice easy train ride and a sleep. There doesn’t seem to be anyone on the carriage. Perfect! But as I’m sitting down, it’s like Uh Oh, there’s a young bloke in the seat right across the aisle: earthy-looking and friendly enough. Yes, but I’m not in the mood for chit chat—   Is that so? The question seems to come from my inner contrarian. O…kay. Better do the right thing, say something and fall asleep quickly.

‘G’day mate,’ I say.

‘What you been up to?’ he says.

‘Not much. Just talking to a bunch of young people.’

‘What about?’

‘Um… spiritual stuff, faith and all that.’

‘Christians?’

‘Uh huh.’

‘Listen buddy,’ he says. ‘I had some Christians tell me that all the good things I ever did are just shit to God.’

‘Well they’re wrong!’ I say. ‘God loves even the tiniest bit of good we do.’

‘What if you’re not a churchie; don’t do the Jesus stuff—get sent to hell ay?’

‘Oh, don’t know what to say to that mate—’ I pause for a moment, praying, and inwardly groaning at how important hell has become for so many people. ‘It’s like this mate,’ I say to him. ‘What you need to watch out for is when you see the face of Jesus and you turn your back on it.’

There we go. He’s staring at me, saying nothing. Earthy bloke is not gonna want to talk to me now and I get to go to sleep. Wait on; it’s like he’s formulating a question, like he’s puzzled.

‘So,’ he says. ‘What do you mean by that?’

‘Um, think of it this way… Imagine there’s some bloke who does lots of good stuff. Loves his wife and kids and works hard. Then one day he has a quarrel with his misses and thinks, I ought to put it right with her. But he gets in a mood and says to himself, “Nuh. I’m done! I’m outta here.” And he just leaves her, abandons the whole home and family. Right there and then, he’s seen the face of Jesus and turned his back on it.’

Wooah! The man’s face has gone pale, like I’ve never seen before. I think he’s even trembling.

‘I can’t believe you just said that,’ he says, staring at me. ‘Cause that’s what I’m doing right now.’

Something beyond this world caught the two of us in its forever-and-ever arms that night.

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