I ride a commuter train to work each morning. It takes about an hour, giving me plenty of time for observation and contemplation. I watch all of the other passengers. With very few exceptions, they all have cell phones or other electronic devices. They are reading books on their Kindle, playing games on their iPhone, or listening to music. What they are not doing is paying attention to the scenery or talking to each other.
One day, I was looking out the window of the train, counting all of the hawks I saw on my daily commute. I was a little alarmed when the older lady sitting next to me began talking to me.
“I so rarely see people smiling on the train” she said.
I didn’t realize I was smiling. Looking out the window at the scenery had put me at peace. I was content.
I replied, “I didn’t realize I was smiling.”
“You look so happy” she replied.
“I was just enjoying nature” I chuckled a little.
This began a conversation that lasted until my stop downtown. We talked about many things during that 45 minutes. What intrigued me was one of her observations. “I’m guessing you are a spiritual person.”
I smiled again, “yes, I am a Christian” I replied.
She paused for a moment and then said, “Well, most ‘Christians’ I encounter don’t seem very happy… what’s your secret?” she asked.
I had to think a bit. “Well, I have my moments, but for the most part I’m pretty happy” I replied. I continued, “I don’t claim to know everything. I am a learner and a sojourner. After I finished my Master’s Degree I thought I was really smart. But I’ve learned one important thing about life and spirituality. When I think I’ve got everything nailed down and there’s nothing more to learn, God teaches me something new. I suddenly realize that I’m not so smart after all. That’s what keeps me learning and keeps my faith fresh. It’s very humbling. It keeps me anticipating what’s coming next! This gives me great joy.”
Her face brightened, “I’m a sojourner, too!”
As our conversation continued she shared her spiritual journey with me. She had been involved in the Haight-Ashbury counter culture movement in the 60’s. She had dabbled in Buddhist literature and in Hindu teachings. She moved to a Northwest commune and spent time exploring a variety of spiritualism. After moving away from the commune, her hunger for spiritual truth brought her to a Christian community where she experienced the Bright Shadow of God. It transformed her life. She was so excited to meet another sojourner along the way.
That chance encounter on a commuter train was another lesson for me. I never know when the Bright Shadow of God will come and transform a moment, a conversation, a life!
This is what keeps me enjoying the journey. The hope of God’s Bright Shadow continues to fall on my life in unexpected ways.
I trust that others can experience this in their lives. Allow God’s word to guide you. Allow God to shine over you, in you, and from you to illuminate the darkness.
Keep learning, keep growing, and most of all, keep shining!