Mike and Emma’s Monday Morning. A short story by Tim Chester

Tim Chester | September 18th 2018

Sunday morning. As Mike sings he is filled with joy. His pastor has just preached on God’s love to us in Christ. Mike has felt afresh that he is unworthy, but Christ is worthy. Now, as he lifts his voice in praise, his love for Christ feels strong. He has no doubt God is present in this moment. Besides, there are tears running down Emma’s cheeks.

Monday morning. The day had started so well. Still buoyed by yesterday’s experience at church, he’d sat down to a bacon sandwich. The kids were playing quietly in the front room. He took Emma a coffee to drink in bed and kissed her gently on the cheek. Outside the sun was shining and the birds were singing. Could life be any better?

Mike arrives at the station to find his train has been cancelled. Two train-loads of passengers are now crammed onto the next train and Mike is having to stand. He’s given up any hope of reading his book. The guy pushed up against him has clearly not heard of deodorant. The next 40 minutes are not going to be fun.

Meanwhile Emma is wiping up milk from the kitchen floor. Sam and Jamie are arguing about socks. And little Poppy... Where’s Poppy? Emma looks up to see the box of cornflakes topple off the kitchen table. “How can a day go so wrong so quickly?” she thinks.

Ten minutes later Emma takes a bite of toast and opens her Bible. She reads a few verses and then she closes her eyes to pray. “Father, may Mike have a good day at work. Please bless...” Jamie bursts into the room. “Where’s my school sweater?” Sam’s not far behind. “Have you seen my homework?” And Poppy... Where’s Poppy?

Mike closes his eyes again and heads off in his imagination to a place far away from this crowded carriage. He’s just about to dive into the blue water of a tropical lagoon when someone spills tea down his shirt. He swears. Immediately he flushes. And not just because warm tea is spreading across his stomach. He’s embarrassed. “I’m so sorry. Really sorry. It’s the delay, the standing. I’m not normally so grumpy.” The young woman holding what remains of her tea is just as embarrassed. “No, no, it’s my fault,” she says as she squeezes past and disappears.

Back at home Emma is ushering the children out of the door. One, two, three. She thinks of Rosie. Four. Every day she thinks of Rosie, their fourth child, born with a malformed heart and dead at three months. Absent and yet always present. Two years on, Emma still feels the loss. It hurts. Here on the doorstep it hurts. “Time will heal,” people had said. She knows they’re trying to be positive. But she doesn’t want to “be positive”. Sometimes she just wants to weep.

Yesterday God had felt so present to Mike. But today... today is different. Today is over-crowded trains, sweaty passengers, a wet shirt and the all-too-present void left by little Rosie. Today God is... What is he? Not absent—Mike doesn’t doubt that God is everywhere. But God doesn’t exactly feel present either. Not in a way he can touch or see.

Emma’s standing in the playground, chatting to other mums while Poppy pulls on her shirt. “Have you heard about Roxanne? You know, Jamal’s mum? Well, I’ve heard...” Emma’s not heard. She wants to. A bit of gossip to spice up her morning. A bit of scandal to make her feel superior. She moves in so she can hear better.

“No,” she says to herself. “Don’t go there. Bad idea.” She turns round. Was it a bad idea? What harm would come of a little gossip? It would distract from the tedium of the day. But Emma thinks of God’s word. She thinks of Christ’s grace to her. She wants to show the same grace to others. “Sorry,” she shouts over her shoulder, “I need to dash.” Nobody notices. They’re all huddled round the latest rumour.

The train is slowly coming to a halt. Mike ducks down to look out the window, hoping to see the station platform coming into view. But all he sees is a wall of graffiti. “As a result of signal failure we’ll be subject to a 15-minute delay. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.” Mike lets out an audible groan. He’s not the only one. The carriage comes alive with shared grumbles.

Mike closes his eyes. He tries to recall yesterday’s sermon. What had his pastor said? Something about Christ being our righteousness. Nothing new. Mike had heard it many times before. But it was such a comfort to hear again yesterday. And it is a comfort to remember it again this morning.

Meanwhile, and a little late, Emma’s walking up the path to Amanda’s front door. They meet most weeks to read the Bible together and pray. Emma tries to remember what it was they looked at last week. Something in Philippians. Something about knowing Christ. Whatever it was, she remembers feeling excited about it at the time.

“Sorry about the mess,” says Amanda. Emma smiles. It’s always messy in Amanda’s house. She moves a pile of laundry off the chair onto the table so she can sit down. Amanda hands her a rather strong cup of tea. Emma doesn’t know how Amanda copes with the chaos.

Half an hour late, Mike is finally sitting at his desk. “How was church?” Bob had asked. Bob is Mike’s only Christian colleague. How was church? The truth is it seems a long time ago. Yesterday his pastor had spoken of a relationship with God. And on Sunday it had seemed like a real possibility. But that was Sunday and this is Monday. Today it feels so much more elusive. If only he had more time to pray, then maybe he could enjoy God. Maybe he could recreate that feeling he had enjoyed on Sunday morning. Or maybe he will just have to wait until next Sunday.

Next Sunday? It is still only Monday morning.

This is an extract from Enjoying God by Tim Chester. Is God involved in the nitty-gritty of our daily lives? How can we bridge the gap between Sunday morning and Monday morning? How can we experience God’s presence when we’re commuting to work or washing the dishes? We believe in God, we serve God, we trust God, but would we say that we experience God on a day to day basis? Discover the key to enjoying God in every moment of everyday. Enjoying God, available to buy now

Tim Chester

Tim Chester is a pastor at Grace Church, Boroughbridge, UK; a faculty member of Crosslands Training; and is the author of over 30 books. He has a PhD in theology and was previously Research and Policy Director for Tearfund UK. He has been an adjunct lecturer in missiology and reformed spirituality. Tim is married to Helen and has two daughters.

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