The daily commute and normal people
I love taking public transit to work and one of the reasons is that it surrounds me every day with ‘normal’ people – those who are not followers of Jesus. I say normal because they are the majority – especially in my city.
Yesterday, a young woman in her twenties boarded the train dressed in black from head to toe and sat right in front of me facing sideways. She was sharply dressed and looked as though she might work in one of the large office towers in the city centre. Her style was like ‘professional Goth.’
As she was getting settled in her seat she turned her head to the side and I was able to see a tattoo on her left cheek. It was an upside down cross.
“I notice your tattoo, where did you get it done?” I asked. (If you are putting a tattoo on your face I figure you are inviting conversation.) She looked directly into my eyes pondering if she would even respond. Was I being judgmental or condemning? Why was this man even talking to me? Eventually she answered with the name of an artist and she had it done nine blocks from our church.
“I guess if you are going to get a tattoo on your face, you would sure want to have the right artist.” I answered. “My son gets his done by an artist in Calgary.” This seemed to suddenly change our relationship and I even got a small smile. Now, keep in mind, the entire time I am looking at a young woman the age of my oldest daughter-in-law. She is attractive yet her dark eye makeup and the upside down cross on her face shout out a defiance that I am sure comes out of deep hurt.
Laughing she responded, “It is my way of giving the finger to organized religion”
“Well it is a very appropriate tattoo for this week,” I responded.
“Why is that?”
“Because the Pope announced he is resigning and he actually sits on a chair that has an upside down cross engraved on it.”
“He does? Unreal!” She was really mystified. “Why.. would the Pope have this on his chair?”
“Well maybe he wasn’t brave enough to put it on his face,” I quipped.
She laughed with a big smile.
“Before I tell you more, and out of respect for you, I want you to know that I am a minister. I work at First Baptist downtown.” She was flummoxed, her head now fully cocked to one side.
I continued, “I know that organized religion can be incredibly frustrating for people to understand and even experience.” More puzzled looks. “But the Pope has your symbol (pointing to her cheek) on his chair because for us as Christians it reminds us of Peter, one of Jesus’s disciples. Peter was crucified on a cross like Jesus – but upside down. He was killed because he refused to renounce his faith in Jesus. He didn’t feel himself worthy to be crucified like Jesus and asked to be hung upside down..hence the cross on the Pope’s chair. The church was founded by this man – Peter.”
With a subdued softer bewildered look, she began to gather her things together getting ready for her stop. My morning friend did not seem anxious to run away and, had our commute allowed it, she might have liked to talk more.
Invite rather than tell
What will she think about when she looks in a mirror today, and tomorrow, and next week?
Inviting people to think, instead of telling them what to think is an effective way to engage normal people.
I hope I meet ‘cross lady’ again to continue the conversation.