I was standing looking across the length of the train, looking at the faces of my fellow passengers. I was struck that each carried their own story, each was magnificently different. That each person carried their own joy – their own pain – their own sadness – their own stories of hope and despair. They each carried their own reflection of God. Hundreds of faces of Jesus.
As I gazed upon these divine beings I realised that I had something to learn from each of them – that their beauty from their pain could teach me something of God. The lady sat opposite looking slightly downcast. The man with his suitcase beginning his day’s traveling. The bearded man playing a game on his phone whilst listening to music. The lady reading her dog-eared novel. The phone checkers hopping from wifi to wifi at each station. As I looked at the diversity on the carriage, I reflected on the image of God they each shone. What a complex God I’m learning about! As I can never fully understand these people I can never fully understand God.
I am never going to learn about God through these people if I don’t speak to them. Looking is only going to get me so far – probably arrested. I have to listen, I mean really listen, strain to hear for the still small voice in each of them.
If we approached our engagement with young people with this sort of grace-filled abandonment of a search for God in them, I wonder how they would see God in us and our image? A God that is interested, that cries at their beauty that is awed at their diversity. A God hat is concerned about the pain that is within them, their joy and their doubts.
‘As Bonhoeffer asserts this kind of listening, being with, place sharing cannot be done in our own strength with our own power rather in and through the power of the One who is already present acting as place-sharer for all humanity, Jesus Christ.’ (Andrew Root, Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry pg129)