... in an unexpected conversation
This week I had an appointment in my diary to have a smart meter installed. When the man came to install the smart meter it became clear fairly quickly that he wanted to chat as he worked, rather than work in silence.
I was somewhat surprised, as in my experience workmen are usually happy to exchange pleasantries and leave it at that. However, he ended up telling me a great deal about his personal life: he felt he had a story that needed telling, and there was a great deal of pain in his past. I had made a very passing reference to my faith because he was asking me some questions, and he said that he used to go to church. I assumed when he said this that he'd meant as a child, but he told me that he hadn't been brought up religious, but his former partner was Catholic and he had gone to church with her. It was obvious from the way he spoke about this that he missed going to church, but he told me he had stopped going because his partner had an affair and left him in very painful circumstances and church reminded him too much of this.
I am not experienced in dealing with personal issues like this when they come from strangers, particularly when you are not expecting to speak about such things, but I tried to listen and empathise, and gently suggested to him that the Church would always welcome him, without pressing the point. He hinted that some in the Church would judge him as a divorcee, which was sad to hear. Later, the conversation moved on to other topics, but when he had gone I reflected how our lives can be briefly touched by the experience of strangers. I can't help but think that one day, with the right encouragement, he would come back to church, or at least, to God, and that it would help him heal his pain. I don't know his name, but I will remember him in my prayers, and all the other people like him who need healing.