Recently I got on a bus. But this little step turned into a life lesson for me when God used an ordinary everyday event to remind me of one of His truths. I hope you enjoy the journey with me!
I never usually travel by bus, but on this day I needed to move across the country and publiic transport was my only option.
So it was with some trepidation that I climbed onto the bus, hauling my luggage up with me – to be met only by kindness. The bus driver smiled and explained my route. My apprehension caused by previous experiences of bored drivers melted away in the light of that smile and I found a seat with new excitement at the prospect of the journey that lay ahead.
The countryside was beautiful – green and lush. Used to the browns of Africa after a hot dry summer, I found the greens breath-taking in their variety and vibrancy. Azaleas in the small gardens blazed with colour; rhodendrons were heavy with buds; the may was snowy white with clouds of tiny flowers; and apple and cherry blossoms tinged not only their branches but the ground beneath them with pink and white confetti.
The extra height of the bus meant I could see over the high hedges to the fields stretching away into the distance. Some were painted lavishly with the yellow of rape in full bloom. Here and there young calves gambolled with one another. Horses and sheep placidly grazed on the fresh green blades of grass. The sight of rabbits delighted me as they basked in sunshine and everywhere there were crows and magpies and fat pigeons. From time to time I glimpsed smaller birds flitting in the hedgerows.
We went to every village en route, passing pretty cottages with shining windows and brightly painted front doors. Many were covered in wisteria. Churches of all sizes and shapes dotted the countryside.
We stopped in quiet country lanes and bustling little towns. In this one a crocodile of tiny children marched up the street, three by three, with a flurry of adults shepherding their progress step by little step. In another it was market day and I briefly glimpsed the colourful stalls and lively business transactions taking place.
I could see the other bus approaching us as we wound our way down the green lane, the heavy trees and high banks on either side of the road giving the light an underwater gleam. We were descending the hill slowly and I watched the approaching vehicle coming towards us with fascination. How could the two vehicles possibly pass one another in this narrow space? Our driver pulled up to the bank at a spot that widened slightly. I took a picture of the pink flowers outside my window, not an arm’s length away. The busses met shoulder to shoulder and the other bus inched forward. The passengers were as interested in us as we were in them as they edged past us.
Inexorably the busses drew together. It was impossible for anyone to get out to offer any guidance as the one door was blocked by the high bank and the other by the passing bus. Neither could reverse. The gap between the two was now a centimetre. But the only way to go was forward and, very gently, they locked together with a disconcerting crunch.
The point of contact had freed the outside door and our driver leapt out of his seat and jumped out through that door. It was not difficult to see he was mad!
‘Scratches,’ he said, his face screwing up in disgust to an enquiry by a brave, concerned passenger. He climbed back into his seat and spoke to the other driver on the radio. We could not hear what he said, but slowly the other bus moved forward with a teeth-curling screech of metal on metal and ominous crunching sounds as pieces of bus gave way to the pressure of forward movement.
Once again our driver got out and, after checking the damage, climbed back into the bus, slamming the door behind him in an expression of his anger and frustration. I was concerned about the rest of our journey. Road rage is universal, and this was an angry man. He turned the ignition on and, releasing the handbrake (or whatever he had to do to let the bus resume its journey), he checked the side mirror and gently eased the bus out into the road again. There was no sign of the anger that had been so evident moments before. He took us to our journey’s end as if the incident had never happened.
I wondered, as we travelled on, what this event said to me of life. Sometimes we find ourselves in narrow fixes, through our own fault or through circumstances beyond our control, when retreat or escape seems impossible and there is only one way out, as difficult or unpleasant as it may seem. God promises us a way out (1 Corinthians 10.13). It may be that we are scraped along the way. There may be a lesson to learn before we plunge ahead. But God is there to help and to guide if only we will ask Him.
I realised I had experienced a modern day parable and that I could learn from the event. Stop and think; weigh up the consequences; and, if the only way is forward, move gently but unhesitantly to learn and put the experience behind you, so that the damage may be contained and not become baggage you carry through the rest of your life.
I don’t know if our driver prayed a prayer. But I was grateful for the way he handled the situation. He gave us his sunny smile as we left the bus, reassuring us that the damage was minimal. My only regret was that I did not thank him for the gentle way he continued the journey and for the lesson he had taught me. But his cheerful attitude continued to light up my day as I climbed on the next bus, and the next, until I reached my destination.
Who would have thought that a simple bus journey could become a parable? Life is full of strange twists and turns, isn’t it?