I was sitting in the foyer of a Lisbon museum waiting and therefore people watching. Generally we’re all strangers (except for the staff who can see each other!) – rushing past – mostly Portuguese of course – with language and culture in common going about their interests, hobbies, or studies – or waiting. Then I spotted a group of folk coming to the entrance. There were about eight elderly folk (four in wheelchairs) plus an entourage of helpers or friends (no uniforms evident). One fellow particularly took my interest. He was elderly, active, fit it seemed, walking faster than the group and therefore having one of the entourage constantly ‘running after him’ and encouraging him to join the group. He came into the museum foyer while the others were forming as a group outside. So he was encouraged to go outside and wait. He then wanted to go somewhere else (but not inside again). So while everyone entered and prepared to go into the first gallery, he was encouraged and cajoled and gently guided to join the group. But he would have none of it. He wasn’t loud or disruptive … just stubborn for those minutes (about 10 so far) and wanted to be somewhere else. The per-son I presumed the leader was patient. She seemed very young to me and I sensed she was increasingly torn between the need of the one and the needs of the many but she had at least coaxed him into the foyer. Eventually a male colleague joined her and stayed with the man while she took the group – the elderly and the entourage – into the gallery and out of sight. Over the next minutes (about another 10 I think) the man ever so slowly made his way to the glass door of the gallery and peered inside. I don’t know what happened next as Charlotte and I met the person we were expecting.
Two things intrigued me. Firstly, the care evident by the entourage was impressive. Nothing was a bother. People were kept warm in their wheel chairs, pushed gently, talked to with what seemed like genuine – not patronising – care. The needs of the one and the needs of the many were considered. Twenty minutes does not make a day or a week or a year I know but those were a good twenty minutes for everyone involved (even, I think, for the young leader).
The second thing that intrigued me was the identity of the old man. I don’t mean his name but his story. He had dementia of some sort … but for how long? Was he married? Single? A widower? A great grandfather? Did he love flowers? Have a nasty temper? A PhD? To me he was a senior citizen in a smart jacket, shirt and tie who probably was used to doing his own thing. What was he experiencing? Did he know to whom he was speaking? I’ll never know.
Well, actually God does know. In fact God himself knew. God was aware of it all … me, the man, the group. He is involved in all our lives not as a puppeteer but as Lord God giving us freedom to make decisions about how we behave each 10 minutes (and less) while also weaving his will as well – that we know him through his Son, Jesus. I know that the people I observed might not have even been Christian, nevertheless God cares for us individually while wanting us to be saved ithroughJesus and he is working in this world so that his will is done.
I can’t prove any of this of course. Considering what horror can happen in 10 minutes, the world can think I’m barmy. Yet, because of Jesus I can expect God not to be far away … ever. — GS