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A New Life

2015-04-29 07:10



To all intents and purposes, he should not have lived, the young man who stood beside me on the London Underground.

I would not have noticed him had he not pulled his hand out of his pocket in order to grip a newspaper more firmly.  It was then that I saw he had no fingers or thumbs on either hand. Instead, he had swollen stumps, heavily scarred and still newly-healed. In addition to his destroyed hands and burn-scarred arms, the young man had no hair. Recent plastic surgery had rebuilt most, but not yet all, of his shattered face. His cap, pulled low to disguise the full extent of his injuries, could not hide everything.

He stood beside the carriage door, his head bowed and pressed against the window, hiding from the other passengers the remnants of his face and arms. For such terrible injuries, this had been no ordinary accident.  He had faced, and survived, an explosion which hit him full in the face and chest. What had he been holding when he was caught in the fire that had removed his fingers and thumbs? Was it a steering wheel?  Was he defusing a bomb? There was no way of knowing.

Was my fellow passenger perhaps a member of the armed forces, recently returned from Iraq or Afghanistan?  He was a survivor. He had nearly died, but he had lived.  He had had risen to challenge and overcome problems that could have destroyed him. He faced the world, greatly changed, but standing tall, brave beyond anything that most of us could ever achieve. His outstanding courage, beyond that of the battlefield, was to confront the passengers on a crowded train. That took bravery which the rest of the world can only admire and only with great difficulty, imitate. He personified the resurrection.

For him to board a rush hour train, when his injuries were most visible, suggested a background strength, love and support that had also risen from the ashes of despair and pain. The young man’s unseen family and friends were another lesson in the meaning of the resurrection.

Resurrection is not something that happened two thousand years ago. Resurrection is today. We are surrounded by people who face and overcome tremendous hardships and suffering, and, through their experiences, find a new life and new beginnings. The fresh start might be cripplingly difficult, but it is a new life.

Young man on the train, whoever you are and wherever you may go, we salute your courage.  May God be with you as you walk towards a new life. You have your own unique beauty. May you walk into the fullness of the light and joy of the resurrection of which, knowingly or unknowingly, you bear testimony. 

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