Just before last Easter, recovering from a cold and wearied by work, I took an afternoon off to visit the most hyped art exhibition in London. I was hoping for a couple of hours of calm and restoration, but knew the reality was likely to be a three-hour queue followed by a 10-minute dash round the gift shop.
I joined the 200-plus who had arrived before me and settled down to wait, when I heard a voice shout ‘are you single?’ A question which normally fills me with dread. Somehow my feeble and confused voice answered: ‘yes?’, and instantly I was grabbed by the arm and led away by two fantastic – if slightly bonkers – American women and handed their spare, possibly golden, ticket.
On chatting with them, I discovered they were on their way to a conference inHolland, but made a stop inLondonespecially for this exhibition. They’d been the day before and loved it so much that they decided to return, buying an extra ticket just so they could share their adoration with a stranger.
Wonderfully, I was that stranger. Walking into that gallery, leaving the queue behind and not once having to reach for my wallet, I had a better afternoon than I could ever have hoped – seeing some incredible art and leaving with a spring in my step. But mostly, I’d experienced grace.
Today, as my miserable face reflects my dissatisfaction with my current life, I remembered last April. I did nothing to earn that ticket. Without the undeserved gift of those unknown ladies, I would have spent an afternoon in a queue with limited hope of ever getting in.
To me it’s a perfect illustration of how Jesus in his mercy lifts us out of our temporary situations, no matter how brilliant or terrible we may find them to be, and gives us a ticket to a place that will totally eclipse them by its incomparable greatness. He lets us in, having already paid the price. All we need to do is find the strength to say yes.