The Power of Humility – Chronicles of a Bus Conductor (Pt.1)

Recently, I was riding the town bus in Dar es Salaam. Now, commuting by public transport in this hot coastal city is not your favorite cup of tea: demand for buses beats supply by far especially during rush-hour and the stakes are high since everyone wants to get a seat for the ride home or to work. No one welcomes the idea of spending one or even two hours standing in a bus, sweating! And because our forefathers queued long enough during the slave trade days, we have thrown that ‘Mzungu’ concept out the window. People prefer to rush the bus long before it comes to a stop. But this is strictly for the able-bodied. It is an unspoken rule that if you do not visit a gym regularly, you should not attempt that stunt. I tried it once and I am glad I lived never to try it again! When the first wave hits the bus, you can hear that banging sound – ka-boom! – as powerfully-built bodies hit the bus. One of the greatest miracles – literally – is that I have never heard of a person being run over by a bus in such situations.

Even after the seats have been occupied people are invariably stacked up, standing, like maize cobs. Sometimes you are so squeezed together you can’t even wave a finger.

In such circumstances it is only natural that patience is at a premium and tempers flair up at the slightest provocation. Bus conductors are not known to be very civil when provoked and the saying, “An eye or an eye” rules supreme. For them it is a defense mechanism; they do not allow themselves to back down under any circumstances.

On this particular day, a middle-aged lady had entered the bus and was standing shoulder to shoulder with me. I could feel her jostling for position, pushing this way and that and the word ‘Trouble’ was pasted all over her! I did not have long to wait. Soon the conductor began demanding fare from those around him and in the process he tapped this lady’s shoulder and asked her for her fare.

The minute he did that, the lady blew up like a landmine. She turned on the conductor and methodically tore at him with a barrage of insults. It turned out she did not like being touched on her shoulder, particularly by a bus conductor, and she made that clear in the rudest manner possible. Then she did what she should never do with any bus conductor: she threatened to not pay up. Well, as far as I knew conductors, this lady had just set the stage for one of the biggest showdowns in the history of this town. I could imagine the kind of reaction that would be coming from that conductor. You are allowed to insult the conductor, if he can take it; but threatening to not pay your fare is asking for a small world war. Normally, in such cases, the passenger will end up paying; but there is no clear winner because either verbally or physically, each party will have made sure they walk away with a piece of the victory.

I glanced at the conductor. He was looking down and I could not see his face. He was a young Muslim man (he had on his cap), and throughout the onslaught he had just stared at his sandaled feet. He must have a wife and kids, I thought; and, as a man, I knew he would fight his ground. When he looked up, I expected to hear him say: “Driver, stop this vehicle this instant! Someone here thinks I am their son-in-law and they are going to pay right now!”; or something like that.

Instead, the young man slowly raised his head, looked the lady in the eye and said quietly, “Madam, I am sorry, please forgive me.” I could see the expression on his face and there was no malice there.

Now, you wouldn’t understand the power of such a statement coming from a conductor unless you live here. It was not the words, really, but the way he said it. There was a deep sincerity and humility in his demeanor.

It suddenly became very quiet in our part of the bus. Everyone knew something momentous had happened. The conductor bypassed the lady and went on picking fare from other passengers as if nothing had happened. Everyone was paying as if they were before a priest. Then, humiliation written all over her face, the lady dipped into her purse and handed her fare to the conductor. The conductor thanked her and we continued with our journey without further incident

.

Sometimes after my wife has gone to bed, I remain on the couch and turn off the lights. That night I thought about the kind of heart that young Muslim man had shown. His humility had won a major battle.

I sat there and let the tears flood down my face.

The Holy Spirit is Grieving

Jer_9:1  “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!”

I now know that all the men and women whom God ever called to Him were men and women of tears. When I say ‘I now know’ that means there was a time when I did not know that. In fact, it has taken me a long time to really appreciate this truth. I have come to know that the Spirit of God is a grieving Spirit. God has nothing to rejoice about in this world. On the contrary, there is much, much to grieve Him, particularly in the days we are living in, and especially within the Church itself.

Some years back, there emerged a wave called “laughing in the presence of the Lord.” I remember participating in one such event. True, we laughed our heads off, but to be honest I felt nothing in my heart. I went home feeling empty and used. These are the kinds of strange, crazy doctrines that the Church today has allowed itself to accommodate!

But no, Sir. That kind of spirit never was, and never will be the Spirit of God. These are demonic doctrines brought in by the enemy to weaken the Church.

Nothing much is written about the Apostle Paul on the topic, but I realize that he also was a man of many tears. When Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:10 that  “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake”, I believe it was no laughing matter. It was a breaking experience and it was accomplished with much tears on his part. Of necessity he had to constantly be on his knees, so that he could conclude: “for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

In my humble experience I have come to discover the only place to really meet God is when the tears are flowing from my eyes. Even in the most mundane of my experiences with God I always know it when the Holy Spirit is visiting me. My eyes fill with tears, and immediately I know He is there. I can just be standing somewhere, and all of a sudden I feel my eyes burning, and I have to quickly make sure I am alone because I know He is there and He needs my attention. And when the Holy Spirit wants your attention you need to be alone because no one else will understand what is going on. One time, many years ago, a lady invited us to dinner in her house, and there was a song playing there, and I just began crying. I was naïve, of course, and I should have known better. But I sat there shaking like a rattlebox; and the pastor who was the senior member of our team began laughing and said, “What is this stupid fellow doing?”

When I got saved I was a final year university student. I remember clearly whenever we entered the chapel for a service, even before the service began I would sit down and begin crying silently, the presence of God was so pervasive.

If there is one thing I can thank my God for today, it is that the tears have not dried from my eyes. The day they dry I know I will be a dead man. The one moment when I know without a doubt that “I am weak, but He is strong in me” is when I feel exactly that: weak. The Lord has won many battles for me as the Holy Spirit led me to simply sit in His presence and let the tears flow.

The Bible talks of Jesus in Hebrews 5:7 and Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:4, and I see this was exactly what happened to them. Of course, it is not a principle, or something that you can just decide to do by yourself. It cannot be an emotional thing that you can just work up. But I am sure that this is a grace that God alone can give. He alone knows our hearts and only He can lead us to that place of humbling ourselves before Him; and at the end of it all, we are left praising and thanking Him for such a grace! If anything we do is not initiated by the Holy Spirit, however spiritual it might appear it is of no spiritual value.

The Church is not in a position to laugh now. We are in a position where all we can do is to allow the Holy Spirit to touch our hearts, and we will first allow God to change our lives; then He will commission us to go out and effectively reach out to a dying world. God will come down and He will move on behalf of His Church.

Let us end by seeing what this broken man of God accomplished. “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.” verse 12