We met on the metro on our trip home from downtown. We had both just witnessed a rather strange occurrence.
A kid got off the metro as I sat and waited to continue. Immediately he was tackled to the ground by police. He was trying to sell dope, the police officer told the lady on the platform as he put handcuffs on him. The kid didn’t seem suspicious at all and he said he was innocent. Another police officer came on our car and searched it. He walked right by me.
I noticed another passenger who was witnessing these events with a sense of anxiety as we waited.
The police left with the kid. A few people got on the train and we continued on our way.
“Do you know what happened?” He asked me as I wondered what I just had seen.
I explained it to him as best as I could and then he immediately shared a story of how he was unfairly punished for a crime he did not commit.
There was no doubt in my mind the Aauthenticity of this perfect stranger.
We talked about how we both grew up in the Midwest, the weather and how it compares to where I live now. We talked about how the color of my skin meant white privilege and the color of his created anxiety. We talked about the unfairness of the legal system and how minor offenses get you locked up with proud rapists and robbers.
He talked about how he is going to school and working a restaurant job until he can earn enough to get his record expunged. He talked about his anger towards his cousin, who admitted his wrong doing too late. He talked about his sadness when his sister didn’t believe him.
And we talked about our shared religious upbringing. I asked his name, so I could pray for him…“Abishai.”
I hadn’t heard that name before, but then he told me it was Biblical. A warrior of David with a desire to kill King Saul.
“Then David set out and went to the place where Saul had camped. He saw where Saul and Abner son of Ner, the commander of the army, had lain down. Saul was lying inside the camp, with the army encamped around him. David then asked Ahimelek the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, “Who will go down into the camp with me to Saul?” “I’ll go with you,” said Abishai. So David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying around him. Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t strike him twice.” But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “the Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.” So David took the spear and water jug near Saul’s head, and they left. No one saw or knew about it, nor did anyone wake up. They were all sleeping, because the Lord had put them into a deep sleep.”1 Samuel 26:5-12 NIV
The Abishai in this Biblical narrative was aggressive, per the man named after him. But as I read through the passage I saw a willing servant, maybe a bit too eager. I saw a man who listened to his leader, even though he wanted to kill Saul.
The Abi I met on the train wasn’t aggressive at all, but a bright young man, full of promise.
As we had just talked about earlier today, Life is real. It’s messy and complicated and unfair because of sin and brokenness.
God is present. He is there with Abishai even though he isn’t religious. He was there with me as I interacted with Abi and listened. He was there as I shared about the upcoming gathering and the thousands that would be in the city.
I believe that that young man knew what was needed after what we had witnessed. He was Real, I was Present and God was with us.