On the Train Tonight

Tonight I had ‘futbol’ practice…it was the first time I’ve been able to go since Matias was born…To get to the practice facility I take a train that’s a bit bigger than the metro and goes way out of the city.

Tonight is the story of two train rides that have a sobering similarity.

On my way out to practice it was rush hour. There were hundreds of people out and the train was packed. There was no chance of finding of seat so I stood with backpack squeezed in between my ankles, certainly too cramped for me to wear the backpack! I had to hold the bar up above my head to keep my balance. This reminded me of my days in Paris when I’d ride the metro there at around 5:30pm! I love riding trains like this, unless it’s all four of us and we have a stroller and two kids that are getting smushed! The diversity of the people here is remarkable. Each person with a past, a story, a place they are coming from, the experiences of their day. Who knows where they are going…what their home is like. Most people are riding by themselves and sharing nothing other than a seat with the person sitting next to them. All that to say, the metro was packed with people from everywhere…and when you stop to really look at other people, you can’t help but be touched by their humanity and really wonder who they are…at least for me.

My ride home from training was much different. When I walked down to the track there was only one other person waiting for a train. I walked down the platform to the back of the train because I knew that the exit where I would get off was down there. I had my headphones on so I couldn’t really hear anything, but in that particular station there is always the smell of oily railroad ties…I kind of like that smell. I sat there smelling the smell, hearing my music, and looking for the train with virtually no other sign of life in the station. It would have made for a cool photo shoot spot. When the train came into the station I walked up to the door that stopped in front of me. I pushed the green button to open the door and I got on the train. This time, instead of ‘standing room only’ I had the pick of every seat in my car. I was alone. It was almost creepy…especially with my headphones on not being able to tell if anyone else really was on there with me. I looked over my shoulder a few time (as I often do in my neighborhood) to see if anyone was there because in situations like that, I don’t like surprises (not saying that the trains are dangerous at all in Barcelona…just saying I like to know if someone is behind me!) As we pulled into the Arc de Triumph station I stood up and looked around at all the empty chairs and realized something.

“Statistically speaking, there are probably just as many people on this empty train that follow Jesus as the crowded train that I rode on the way to practice early tonight: one…me”

I’ve probably said this 50 times at gatherings in the US…the reality in Europe is that when I ride the bus or the metro there is a high chance that I am the only Jesus follower on that bus or metro. It’s really a huge contrast to the places that I’ve lived before.

But tonight it was different for me to experience that reality like this. Being alone physically really heightened the truth that I am often very alone spiritually.

I guess there are two points to me processing this: one is to remind myself of the vacuum that exists here. I really believe that following Jesus is the hope for this life and the next…and it kills me that so many go through life never knowing the God who is Love…the love that brings grace, redemption, wholeness, peace…

The second thought that comes to mind is the story Paul when he was in Corinth and felt very alone. God reminded him that He had ‘many people’ in that city and that God himself was with Paul (Acts 18). I know that there are two kinds of people that God has here: one being other people that follow Jesus already (we’re trying to meet and connect with these people now), but the other being people that are seeking God…that God has already begun working in their lives and they just need someone to walk with them on the road. This is why we’ve come here…to trust God that we’ll be lead to these people and that they will with experience Jesus through us…and even better, taste and see for themselves that Jesus is who he claimed to be and that becoming ‘a learner’ of Jesus does bring the Life that Jesus said it would.

The beauty of living in the middle of a city (and sometimes difficulty) is that I just can’t escape human contact. I am constantly reminded of my smallness, my weakness, while swimming in this sea of life. I’m grateful for how this teaches me humility. I am also humbled by the work we have chosen to embrace…living out the Kingdom of God in a place like this seems small…like a mustard seed, or a bit of yeast, or something…but we look with anticipation to what is to come. I’m loving this lesson that I learned on the train…

No Comments

  1. katie on January 15, 2010 at 5:37 am

    Hey Justin,
    this was a good post! I appreciate the perspective. Tim and I are getting ready to move to a city where we’ll take the train – where we intend to live out our lives for the sake of the kingdom. Thanks -Katie

  2. Paul on January 16, 2010 at 6:07 am

    Great post Justin…what a profound picture you saw.

  3. Mom on January 25, 2010 at 10:04 am

    What a great analogy. Even in an empty bus you are never alone. God has His righteous right hand on your shoulder because He loves those He has chosen for you to serve. May He continue to lead you to them as you pray for your heart to be His home. I love you!

  4. Lawrence on February 25, 2010 at 12:52 am


    The first thing I thought of when reading your account of the train ride at rush hour was the song titled “People Neeed the Lord”.

    I am glad that you followed up your oomment abourt being spiritually alone with the Scripture about Paul’s aloneness. Although you both know/knew that Jesus would never leave not forsake you, there are times when you feel very much alone. I will keep this issue in my prayers for you and Jen.

  5. Xavier Memba on March 11, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Great thought Justin!

    Would you mind if I translate it into Spanish and post it on my blog? A very refreshing way of looking at the city as a mission field!

    Looking forward to meeting you one of this days @BCN


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