an amazing deal

Next week I have to have a battery changed. It’s inside me. I have an Occipital Nerve Stimulator inside me that does an astonishing job of preventing me from experiencing a constant migraine and frequent cluster headaches. It’s my favourite piece of technology in the world. But the ONS battery needs replacing.

The operation will be at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neuroscience, which is in London. They do all sorts of amazing things to help people with all sorts of different ailments. Based on my previous experience of this operation I’ll be out of action for a couple of weeks afterwards to recover but will remain virtually headache-free, which is an amazing miracle of medical science.

A couple of weeks ago, in preparation for the op, I had to go to London for some tests, so I decided to let the train take the strain. I went to the Great Western website and chose the train I wanted – a return from Plymouth, Devon to London Paddington. I went to the payment page and was startled to see how much they wanted to charge me for a return ticket. How much do you think?

£60?

£80?

£100?

£200?

Nope.

I couldn’t believe it.

5 pence!!!!

Yes, you did read that correctly.

I really couldn’t believe it. Surely there was some mistake? But everything looked correct so I went on to the payment page: wondering at what point the system would tell me I had got it wrong. And sure enough, when I tried to pay it wouldn’t let me. I was not surprised. Except…

…the reason the system wouldn’t let me pay was not because I couldn’t have the ticket but that the minimum amount the system would let me pay was 50p. I thought about it for a moment and then went back and added a Travelcard to enable me to use the Underground network once I arrived. That would cost £13.90.

I selected it, and then expected the total cost to have gone up nearer the £80-£100 I was expecting. Nope. £13.95

But that meant I could pay. So I did. And it accepted my payment. I was to collect the tickets from the railway station as the journey was still several days away.

A few days later I went to the station to collect the tickets but the machine wouldn’t give them to me.

‘Aha!’ I thought, ‘The system has realised that there’s an error.’ I went to the ticket office to ask about it and was told that the reason was that the machines were all offline and I should try again on another day. So the 5p travel was still possible.

The next day I went back to the station and collected the tickets from the machine. No problem.

Surely there was some mistake? It couldn’t be THAT cheap, could it?

On the day of the journey I went early and checked at the ticket office that my 5p tickets were valid.

“Oh yes, there’s not a problem” said the nice lady behind the counter.

I went to the ticket barrier, still expecting it to be rejected, and the barrier accepted the ticket and opened to let me onto the platform area.

Oooookaaaayyyy…

The train arrived and I got on, sitting in my reserved seat. |However, I still expected that when the train manager / ticket inspector came around and looked at my ticket there would be a problem.

The train manager came. He inspected my ticket. I held my breath.

He smiled and said, “Thank you” and went off to inspect the rest of the tickets. I released my held breath.

And so it continued through the day. Each time I went through a ticket barrier or had my ticket inspected I fully expected there to be a problem and to be told that the ticket wasn’t valid, and each time it was accepted without question.

Like me, you may be disbelieving about this 5p return journey to London. So here’s the proof – the receipt for the tickets when I collected them…

I have redacted some key elements to prevent anyone copying the ticket

Everyone I have told about this has immediately asked me how I did it. They have been amazed, impressed, astonished, speechless, and so on.

The truth of the matter is that I have no idea how I did it. I didn’t knowingly do anything different from when I have booked train tickets online before. I doubt it will ever happen again. But I was seriously blessed.

And what’s the point of this tale? Well I wonder whether the way that churches have talked about Jesus may well have undersold him. We may talk about going to heaven when we die or being ‘saved from our sins’ but that’s only a small part of what he is offering. Jesus talked about bringing ‘life in all its fullness’. I don’t think that’s life without pain or problems. I think that’s life with pain and problems but knowing that we’re not alone in them. It’s life with struggles and sticky patches but being aware that he gives us the grace and strength to cope. It’s a full-spectrum rainbow of life, which includes darkness and shade as well as brightness and light. It’s almost too good to be true! But somehow we have not shared the good news in such a way that people realise that.

I wonder what people’s reaction would be if they knew that what we’re talking about is much more than an eternal life insurance policy? Would they be as surprised and interested as when someone buys a return rail ticket from Plymouth to London for 5p?

Have I underestimated in my own mind what an amazing thing he is offering? If so, perhaps it’s not surprising that I may not have portrayed what he is offering to other people in such a way that they are as interested in Jesus as in a 5p rail ticket. Have I undersold Jesus and what he offers?

I wonder what people’s reaction would be if they knew that what we’re talking about is SO much more than an eternal life insurance policy and get-out-of-jail free card?

Be blessed, be a blessing

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