The place was a sardine can. Complete with yelling babies, as my luck would have it. Having been at the back of the line, my choices were limited to the following: sit beside a younger guy or an older guy. But definitely a guy.
Looking over my options, I went for the older guy playing solitaire on his phone. Eager for a nice, quiet overnight ride, I slid my luggage on the top shelf, awkwardly waited while the gentleman struggled up to let me to the window seat, and tried to make myself and my pillow as small as possible. I pinched my earplugs in place, and settled to ignore the guy, who had apparently finished his game and was producing a tall thermos.
"Woo yoo lie um?"
I removed my earplugs. "Pardon me?"
"Would you like some?" He grinned, brandishing a plastic mug. "Unfortunately, I only have this one cup, but I'd love to share."
It wasn't coffee. It was chardonnay.
Figuring I really might as well find out a little more about the person I was about to sleep with on this journey, I asked his name, and where he was from. I was delighted to hear he had a wife, and a daughter my age, who also had four children. Whew.
Turns out, drinking made him quite gregarious. A truly captive audience, I resigned myself to hear whatever stories he wished to tell me for the next six hours till his stop in Philly. At least the noisy engine had finally started, and the a/c was very slowly dispelling the muggy atmosphere.
"Ed" was a evangelical Christian. His story was the Gospel. A story which got louder and more enthusiastic the emptier his thermos got. A story which continued while the rest of the bus fell asleep.
Don't get me wrong: I'd really wanted to sleep. I'm a mom. I'm always low on sleep. This was a long-awaited adventure for me, one I wanted to share with my own thoughts and enjoy with my own slumber.
But somehow, I didn't mind. I thought of how my youngest delights in the continual re-reading of "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?" She will sit in rapt attention while you read it to her, then slide off your lap to go book in hand to all the literate members of the household, each of them having a turn to read about what these absurdly colored animals see.
I'm a theology major. I know about creation, and the fall, and redemption. I know how the Old Testament foreshadowed the new.
I loved hearing it again anyway. Too tired to trot out what I knew myself, I just let Ed tell me again. How Jesus loved us, and laid His life down to save us. How we would live with Him forever. The comfort of the eternal story, forever old, forever new.
And suddenly, the conversation turned very personal.
"You know, I lost a child years ago. She was seven. Born with a brain tumor, went into remission, but then it just came back, you know? We did everything we could. Practically lived with her in the hospital those final months..."
I was wide awake now. He told me how he and his wife, both musicians, would play music for the terminally ill children of the ward to fall asleep to. She on a dulcimer, he on a muted violin. He explained how he was angry with God, but later came to terms with the Love that is stronger than death. He told me his conversion story.
"What about you? You're a young mom... did you ever have a moment when you knew God was working in you, even though things outwardly were awful?"
I told him how sorry I was for his loss, and how I hadn't had that type of sorrow. But I'd had Pepper.
We talked of Heaven long into the night. Right up till the rest stop at McDonald's, when the lights clicked on and the passengers stretched and yawned and the babies cried and we got 2 AM smoothies that we totally didn't need or really want.
Quite tiring and inspiring. Neat to think how God had saved me the right seat. Much better than my bus ride home, where I had a seat to myself but was left stranded at midnight in Port Authority, NYC. But I promised short posts, so maybe I'll write on that later. For now, a scripture with the month's theme :)
"'Were not our hearts burning within us,
while He spoke with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?'"