The stamp of the Saint is that he can waive his own rights and obey the Lord Jesus.Saints give up what they want, in order to do what God wants. Numerous stories of the saints provide inspiration, but many of us either never find out about these historical figures in the Christian church, or we fail to remember, listen to or pray to them.
But sometimes, they come to us. Last weekend our family of five were finally seated, restfully, around a table in a pizzeria in a city in the north of England.We had driven for over three hours only for our vehicle to overheat in the middle of the city centre as we strived to find a car park. While hero of a husband waited in a cold car for the breakdown guy, I managed to take two big girls and a baby through the city for their promised pizza treat.
It wasn't that simple. It was absolutely pouring with rain. I hadn't been in the city for almost a decade and didn't know the way; my paper map got soggy and unreadable. At one point in the city's most famous street, we realised we were up on a stepped area (thanks, postmodern urban planners!) and had to retrace our route to get the buggy down. On arrival at the restaurant, at the bottom of a very steep hill, we were faced with more steps, so not only did I have to struggle to separate the parts of the buggy and hoist them into the restaurant while the big girls waited patiently, but the bathroom was two steep floors up and I had to lug the baby up carefully in my arms. All this without knowing what was happening with the car and what the rest of the day held!
But it was there my luck began to change. Although the restaurant had access problems, it was from a chain we knew and trusted, and there were nappies of Rebecca's size, wipes and nappy sacks there in the bathroom so I didn't need to lug the nappy bag too. There were two sisters from another family helping each other in there, and the restaurant was filled with other families yet had a table for us too. The waiting staff took great care of us, adding my husband's order at the last minute, and within the hour we were all seated, eating hot food, having fun, knowing that we could check into the hotel with the car fixed, and drive on to our relatives' home to spend time with them and deliver birthday and holiday gifts.
[One of the ironies, incidentally, was that the car broke down opposite a car park; when my husband explained to the rescue guy that we had been unable to find a parking space, he had the car park across the road pointed out to him. And although again, there were many steps and I had to wait with the buggy while my husband brought the car around, it was fine.]
So the lessons learned were not just that a city I spent time in as a student is not the best for wandering around with kids. It was about trust and faithfulness. I had been eager for us to depart from our home as soon as possible, in order to get to the restaurant so we could eat, meet our relatives and visit an art gallery and, for some pre-Advent preparation, the cathedral of St Nicholas. In the end, we just got to eat. But our car got fixed. We got to our destination eventually. And we were soon sipping hot tea in the welcoming home of Aunty Kath. So thanking both God and St Christopher in the restaurant was pretty much a given!
Each daily journey is part of our life's journey and we need to treat it as such, without the rush and the worry. We will be helped there, whether by the saint dedicated to travellers, or others. We just need to trust, and know we will get there eventually. In terms of spiritual, emotional and personal matters, it may be years before we get there, but we are still being helped along.
As an aside - Christopher was someone who said 'No' when God first asked him to serve. He was a big fellow, and didn't think he could do the whole fasting and praying thing - he needed to eat! So God reconsidered in this case. And he found something that Christopher was better suited for - carrying travellers across the river. Sometimes the things we think God is asking us to do seem too hard. We fail to trust. We can spend a lot of time saying no. We put our needs first. And most times God wants us to keep on trying. But sometimes he gives us a break. God seems to know when we've had enough. Jesus knows the limits of our humanness. We are all potential saints too, but serving Him on this earth can be hard. But, like us in the city that day, we need to keep on journeying, and hope to get there, one way or another.
(We also managed to avoid the pile-up on the motorway on the return journey...)