Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Pusher

We just got back from Michigan where we celebrated my grandma's 75th birthday. We also had a chance to see many of you at the "homecoming" open house my parents hosted. It's always good to catch up. Thank you to everyone who came.

I borrowed a book from my mom and started reading it this morning while Caleb slept and Nathan lay on our bed with his thumb in his mouth watching a Baby Einstein video. It isn't really a book book. It's more like a devotional. It's a collection of Puritan prayers called The Valley of Vision. This morning I read a prayer addressed to the Trinity. The following caught my attention:
O Holy Spirit, I thank thee that in fullness of grace thou hast exhibited Jesus as my salvation, implanted faith within me, subdued my stubborn heart, made me one with him for ever...thou art willing to help my infirmities, to show me my need, to supply words, to pray within me, to strengthen me that I faint not in supplication.
Maybe I was not properly pensive this morning, but this made me chuckle. A story immediately flashed to mind. I spent a year teaching at a school near Beijing, China before I graduated from college. Food and housing were provided by the school as well as transportation once each week into the city and a small (VERY small) stipend for other expenses. I learned early on that there were certain things that my budget couldn't cover--like taxis. To accommodate, my roommate and I figured out how to use the bus system.

It is difficult to describe a Chinese bus (circa 1998) for anyone who has not lived overseas. Imagine a metal box with worn tires and black exhaust. Now fill the box with so many bodies that seated passengers are forced to lean out from open windows and those standing jockey for breathing space. Buses such as these require three staff--a driver, a caller (who shouts from a window to attract passengers and to warn off other motorists), and a pusher on the ground. The pusher has the most strenuous job. It's his duty to ensure that every willing passenger (and an occasional passerby) are wedged, crammed, shoved, shimmied, and otherwise helped onto the bus. His job is made doubly difficult by safety standards which won't allow the bus to move if the doors are not properly closed.

A fellow American teacher was waiting patiently at a bus stop for just such a bus. When the contraption pulled up to the stop already bursting at the joints, she balked and said she would wait for the next one. The pusher would have none of it. He grunted and led her by the elbow to the step which was the only space left. She stood as far inside as she could get. Unfortunately, the pusher miscalculated. American derrieres are not as compact as their Chinese counterparts and the safety doors could not close. The driver furiously kept pressing the lever and the doors opened and closed again and again on the same obstruction. My friend made a valiant attempt to flee, but before she could maneuver she felt two hands firmly planted on her bottom. The pusher gave it his best and finally the doors wheezed shut.

This was the image that came to mind when I read Puritan prayers this morning. I must say that I'm thankful the Holy Spirit is just as determined as that Chinese bus pusher. There are days when I need a good shove from behind--a little help to get on the bus.

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