I thought the young man was joking when he invited me round. He would frequently invite himself around to other guys from small group’s flats (and I don’t mean this in a bad way, he just didn’t like the idea of folk walking back in the cold). Nobody would turn him down if they could, for he knew how to make people feel at ease with his range of jokes and rugby banter.
When I got in, he told me he was considering buying an “Ashton Martin”. A wry Chris Ashton reference after his winning try against Ireland at the weekend. He’d probably been practicing that one. He shook my hand too, though with a somewhat loose grip, and, I thought, not a little bit of shaking.
“I’ve got to kick you out in an hour or so because of an inspection, hope that’s ok?” he said.
“Loads of time!” I replied.
He sat me down and offered me a cup of tea, which he went off to make. He had a desk in the lounge, on which there was an open Bible and a couple of novels.
The Bible was open on John 9. Highlighted were verses 3-4:
It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming , when no one can work.
Verse 4 was double-underlined. He came back in and asked if I wanted milk in my tea.
“Sure.” I said. “Do you want any help?”
“No, I’m fine.” he said. I opened the Bible at the same chapter and turned the page. Another highlighted verse, in Chapter 11. Lazarus.
But when Jesus heard [Lazarus was ill] he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the son of God may be glorified through it”.
As far as I could see, no other verses were highlighted and I wondered why he’d single those two out. I wondered what he’d asked us to pray about at small group last week and remembered he’d said there was “nothing in particular”.
Suddenly, I heard something smash in the kitchen.
“IT’S FINE!” I heard him shout. But I went in anyway and saw him looking at the hot puddle and the remnants of the smashed “I love NY” mug on the floor.
He looked at me angrily.
“I SAID IT WAS FINE! WHY DOES EVERYONE ALWAYS FEEL THE NEED TO POKE IN?” he shouted, while tears welled up in his eyes. He stared at the mug again.”I’m sorry. I just… ”
“Is everything ok?” was all I could ask. He looked at me, this time a petitionary look.
“Will it ever go?” he paused. “If I knew it meant something. All this sadness. I might be happy.”He paused. “Why can’t I be happy?” At this, he burst into a flood of tears.
I had no answer for him. I put my arms around him and we cried for a long time into each others’ shoulders.
For the avoidance of doubt, the above was fictionalised, but based on real conversations and events (though not with any one particular person). If you are feeling down, talk to someone you trust. You are not alone.