Standing on a tube train in London, all around me was quiet. Some listened to ipods, eyes shut, mesmerised by the beat in their ears, and the rhythmic rattle of the train. Others read books, Kindles, and even the overhead advertising, whilst some picked up the free London paper discarded by the last passenger.
Stood further up the carriage, I noticed a young woman. She wasn’t striking, or eccentrically dressed (such things don’t raise an eyebrow in London). No, she was sombrely dressed in black skirt and jacket. However, she was fighting hard to hold back tears. Buttoned bottom lip quivering, and eyes filling with salty tears. Immediately I felt drawn to her… “Are you ok?” I wanted to ask. But the carriage was full with rush hour traffic. People working hard to ignore one another…
The doors opened and I was forced off the train, making way for the changing of the guard. No Sooner had one wave washed me off, than the next surge pressed me back on.
I had been in London for a meeting and had an “off-peak” travel card, which meant I had put in time at a Witherspoon, eating curry and watching football. Now I was heading back to Paddington to board a train to Hereford via a change at Newport… my ticket meant that I had missed the last direct train to Hereford.
Now the tide had washed me up on the underground beach, mid-carriage, next to the lady in black..
Should I speak? But no-one speaks on the tube.
“Are you ok?” There, I said it! But I had too. “Please forgive me if it seems rude asking, but I couldn’t help noticing that you seem upset. Is there anything I can do?”
“Thanks,” she replied. “I’ve had the worst day of my life. I’ve said goodbye to the man I love, and I won’t see him for 4 years!”
“Is he in the army?” an interloper asked.
“No,” she said, and that seemed to end things.
A few minutes later, the interloper got off… “Thanks for caring,” said the lady in black. “I’ve got to travel back to Newport on my own!” she added.
Okay, now breaking the silence on the tube is weird enough, but a man travelling alone, ‘hitting’ on a clearly distressed single white female with the follow-up “Oh, that’s a coincidence, I’m travelling to Newport too,” seemed like it might scare her to death. But, having prayed for her, taken the plunge in speaking, and now hearing she was going my way meant that I knew it was no coincidence.
“Look, I know this sounds weird, but I’m going to Newport too. I’d be happy to travel with you if you want company.” For some reason, I thought it would soften the blow if I added “I’m a church Pastor.”
To my surprise, she immediately retorted “I’ve been praying all week, and God hasn’t answered my prayers!”
Seriously, this does not happen to me every week, but it happens enough for me to know this… God had heard her prayers, He did care about her pain, and, for some bizarre reason, God had sent me to help! But, whilst I was sure of these things, why would the lady in black believe it to be true?
“Thank you,” she said, “I don’t think I can face the journey alone.”
I discovered a lot on that journey…
Her partner had been convicted of a crime at crown court, and had got 4 years, for a crime from a former life, before she knew him; she had a beautiful little girl called Faith; she had friends in a church in Newport; she believed in God.
I hope she discovered that God loved her and had a plan for her life; He had heard her prayers; He wanted her to trust Him.
We parted company with a hug at Newport station. I gave her a Gospel of John, and dashed for my train, glad that in spite of my reservations, I had asked “Are you ok?”