The fellow with the cello
The train was crowded, but I found a couple of empty seats just inside the door and slid near the window. I threw my backpack beside me and looked around. The train would leave the station in less than two minutes. I had the two seats all to myself. Good.
I grabbed my copy of The Pilgrim’s Progress from my backpack. I had read excerpts in high school and college, but this was my first attempt at reading it in its entirety. The past three weeks I had been on a spiritual pilgrimage of my own in the UK, so Bunyan’s classic seemed appropriate.
The Scotrail from Glasgow to Edinburgh would take an hour and a half before an additional forty-five minutes on a commuter to meet my friends. I had ample time to read.
The doors opened and a tall blonde-haired young man rushed on board. He was wearing a white t-shirt beneath a scruffy leather jacket. I could see the outline of a smart phone and a cigarette lighter in the back pocket of his jeans as he turned to lug a cello case from the platform. He squeezed against the partition to avoid triggering the sliding doors as the train lurched out of the station. The cello fell and he jumped to keep it from sliding down the aisle.
As soon as he and his cargo were upright, I invited him to sit with me.
“With this?” he asked, pointing at the cello. “Will it fit?”
I assured him there was room and moved my backpack as he took a seat and wedged the cello case in front of him. It was not a particularly comfortable arrangement, but I felt good about rescuing him from standing up for an hour or more balancing the massive instrument.
We jumped right into conversation without exchanging names. He mentioned a flat in Haymarket, so I assumed he was Scottish. He looked like a Willem or an Aiden to me, although his wardrobe was more suited to a young James Dean. I learned he was from South Africa and had come to Scotland for university. He had completed an undergraduate at St. Andrews and a master’s at the University of Edinburgh.
I pointed to the cello and asked if he had studied music.
He laughed and explained the cello was a hobby he tried in an attempt to ease his boredom during the pandemic lockdown. Literature had been his major in both undergraduate and grad school, and he would soon be heading back to the University of Edinburgh to pursue a doctorate.
I shared a summary of my own higher education path and offered some tips on surviving a dissertation before asking if he planned to continue with literature.
“Ah yes. Well, you see I am a supernaturalist,” he remarked with great enthusiasm.
His eyes lit up as he spoke passionately about his research on feminism in medieval literature, particularly the often-overlooked female influence in the dark arts. He was consumed with debunking the mockery of magic displayed in Harry Potter novels to focus on what he deemed to be real wizardry.
I responded immediately that I, too, was a supernaturalist and had come to Scotland on a spiritual pilgrimage with the largest supernatural being of all, the God of the Universe. He listened intently as I spoke about the history of the 24-7 Prayer Movement and its roots in an ancient order focused on practices of prayer, kindness, creativity, and mission, among others. We entered into a lively discussion as I matched his stories of witches and wizards with stories of some well-known figures in Scottish history, who were also faithful Christians.
We discussed The Pilgrim’s Progress and the Bible. He was intrigued when I suggested a place he might visit in Edinburgh to learn more about the significant role of Christ in Scottish history.
When the announcement came for his stop, he thanked me for the seat, shook my hand and said, “Most Christians offend me, but you made me want to read the Bible and learn more. Thanks for the conversation.”
“It is the glory of the next world that will never wear out, while the good things of this world will vanish.” John Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress
Father, thank you for your supernatural presence in my life through your Holy Spirit. Help me to be bold and unashamed to share Your story with everyone I meet. Amen.
For further reflection read Colossians 4:5-6