In the last few weeks I’ve been in unfamiliar places and have had to ask directions. One was Cardiff which I used to know, sort of, but like every growing city it is being altered and things aren’t where they used to be. For example, the central bus station has disappeared and no one seems to know where the Cardiff to Newport bus goes from. And although the Central Train Station is still in the same place, approaches to it have been altered.
After lunch with a friend recently, in a restaurant that doesn’t do desserts (imagine that!) she left to catch her train and I decided to visit the desserts-only restaurant at the top of St. Mary Street on the corner facing the old Castle. It was called ‘99 desserts’ because that’s what it served, 99 luxurious, ingenious, unique desserts. But sadly, it was shuttered and closed, probably a victim of the Covid lockdown. Walking back down the street the angle was different and I couldn’t see the road that led to the train station. Then around the corner came two cheerful blokes wielding long-handle trash pickers and pushing brightly coloured bins. One of them pointed me to a street on the right and said that was the quickest way to the station. But it just didn’t look right and seeing my hesitation he asked, ‘shall I walk with you?’ As we walked we had a cheerful chat and he told me some interesting things about himself. Sadly, although he looks cheery he battles bouts of depression, when life seems empty and meaningless. He’s searching different philosophies and hopefully, now he’ll find out about Jesus, too.
A few weeks earlier I was finding my way around another town, in England this time. There were no taxis at the little station and the ticket collector said it was quicker to walk to the hotel than wait for a taxi. ‘It’s just up that little lane alongside the houses there,’ he said pointing, ‘when you get to an underpass on your left go through there, turn right and walk up the path to the car park, walk through the car park and you’ll see the hotel across the street in front of you. About 15 minutes’ walk.’
I’ve discovered that when people are familiar with the way they describe they underestimate the time it takes. Or maybe they have longer legs. Or perhaps I get slowed down by a wheeled suitcase on uneven ground. (I hanker after Terry Pratchett’s many-legged luggage…) After 10 minutes there was the underpass; a narrow, dark place just oozing menace. Probably full of huge spiders and cockroaches. By now it was getting dark and I was alone on the path so I thought about going back to the station and calling an Uber.
Then along came a man who stopped and asked, ‘Are you lost? I’m from around here?’ I said I’d been given directions to the hotel and was the only way through the underpass and he said yes that was right, and added, ‘Shall I walk with you?’ So we went through the underpass, along the path, across the car park to the pedestrian area alongside the hotel, chatting the whole while. His name is Mick, he’s an author, he’s had a major life change and he is looking for new direction and meaning in his life. We had a really pleasant discussion about Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life. He said he is a Roman Catholic and I said that there is only one Jesus and only one Calvary and I’d pray for him.
I’m so grateful to this two chaps for taking the time to walk with me: at the same time marvelling at God’s timing (Psalm 31:15). Do pray for Mick, please, that his search for meaning will lead him to Jesus, and for Carl in Cardiff, that he, too, will find that Jesus doesn’t just have the answers … He IS the answer. Glory!