If you’ve ever stayed in a youth hostel, you’ll know that they can be fun but that the kitchens can be very busy at meal times. We were a group of 12 at the end of a long day and those who were cooking had been looking out for a chance to claim some tables so that we could eat our meal.
We finally managed it and all sat down together. Half-way through the meal, some of the group got up to sort out some pudding and at that point a tired looking dad with some young children asked if he could sit in their seats. I said ‘no’. (Well actually, I wasn’t quite as brutal as that, I suggested that there was another table that was about to be free.)
The second I said it, I regretted it. My motivation, of course, was to protect the space of our group. But why? What was the difference really between us and them?
One of the accounts of the Easter story has got me thinking in the last week (the one in the book of Matthew). It’s been a couple of days since Jesus died and some of his female friends go to see the tomb where his body has been left. When they get there, the stone covering the doorway is in place and as they stare at that stone, they are probably imagining death inside.
But then there is a dramatic change of perspective. There’s an earthquake that moves the stone aside and they can actually see into the tomb, which is no longer about death, but life. They arrived grieving and hopeless and then are shown a truer reality; the tomb is empty and Jesus is alive. Glory.
At the youth hostel, if I’d been looking at those fellow guests with eyes more accustomed to seeing things as they really are, I would have welcomed them to join us or I would have at least got up and given them my chair. That too would have been glory.
Earlier that day, I’d had the opportunity to do a High Ropes course for the first time and I’d been thinking about the safety cable, which I both needed and didn’t need.
When I say I didn’t need the safety cable, what I mean is that I didn’t slip once. So, technically, I had no need of it. I could have just run round the course in the treetops without any safety feature at all, and been fine.
Except I couldn’t. The safety cable was the only thing that psychologically enabled me to take the first step out onto a wobbly platform. There is no way I could have done without it. The course I saw from the perspective of having a safety cable attached was completely different to the one I would have seen without it.
What would help me see people with truer eyes, the next time someone asks to share my table? I suspect that a grip on my safety cable, reminding myself of God’s love for all of us would have done the trick. Likewise, a life lived with the courage to see that stones will be moved and that tombs needn’t be about death will help me see to take the first steps.