James

“Need to get home to mum: Junction 15”

This blog is for a man named James who sat outside the entrance to a service station on the M1 holding a torn piece of cardboard with the above words scribbled on it.

When I read James’ sign I didn’t know what to do. I have these crisis moments now and again where basically I fight with myself over whether it’s safe for me to pick up random male hitch hikers when I’m a young female traveling alone. So far “common sense” has won and those close to me (especially my parents) have thanked me for the choice. But I don’t really like it.

I want to practice being sensitive and obedient to the little nudges within me that I put down to God. James was one of those moments of being nudged. As I walked past him and read his sign, we looked at each other and I said “I’m sorry, if I wasn’t a girl...” and I shrugged. He smiled and nodded and said “It’s ok, I understand” and off I went.

“Go back” came the nudge, even as I walked away. I sat in my car. What more could I do? Yet even as those words “I’m sorry, if I wasn’t a girl...” left my mouth I had annoyed myself. I was passing by a moment that could have been extraordinary, because I am a girl and we all know it’s not safe for girls to give lifts to ‘strange men’. 

I tried not to think about it and opened my bag to eat my packed lunch. But even as a took a bite I couldn’t stomach it, the nudge came again, “go back”. 

From an ordinary moment over lunch in my car, an obedience to the faintest sense that it would be uncomfortable in my soul to drive off made an extraordinary moment instead. I got back out the car (much to the bewilderment of the chap sitting in the adjacent vehicle), wrapped up my lunch and headed back to crouch down beside James.

I gave him lunch, I heard his story of working as a boat-hand and sailing across the world for the last six and a half years, and how he’d only just arrived back in the UK to discover all his friends had moved away and there was nothing for him here any longer, not even a job or a bed.

I got his contact details. I apologised for the way he felt the UK had rejected him. I said he was welcome and he did matter. He wasn’t off his face, he wasn’t unstable, he was just tired, his faced still tanned from the life at sea far away, and his eyes were sad, kind, but sad. A man came along and offered to drive James to his next stop, Junction 15, where there was a promise of a tent for him. And with a hand shake, he was gone. 

I hope that somehow this blog is also like a torn piece of cardboard. Like James’ sign, maybe these words also make you stop, if only for a moment, and just consider that an ordinary moment could be extraordinary if we listen to the nudges.

Do we walk by moments every day when we have the opportunity and God-given power within us to do something, see something, be something extraordinary? On campus, in the library, on a night out? That person crying in the toilets, that international student eating lunch alone, that new lecturer in the department who actually just wants to be asked for coffee so they can feel accepted.

Romans 12: 1-2 (The Message) says it better than I ever could.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

I emailed James. I want to take my ordinary moments and trust an extraordinary God.

Hi James it's Miriam,

We met at the service station heading south and I shared my lunch with you.

Just wanted to check you got Northampton to find your tent? Where are you now? What next?

Praying for you.

Be safe

Miriam

Miriam Swanson

Global Student Mission Leader

Miriam helps equip the church for student mission internationally. She's based in the USA and hungry to see young adults follow Jesus with all of who they are. 

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