Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Naming our Nazareths

We’ve all got our own Nazareths. Like Nathanael, when he heard about Jesus’ origins (John 1:46), we wonder if anything good can possibly come from there. These Nazareths don’t have to be physical. They might be cultural, political, or religious. Culinary or musical, even. One of mine used to be Belgium, until a certain Sunday afternoon.

It’s not that I despised the country, I just sort of dismissed it as nothing more than a boring interlude between my then home in Amsterdam and the pleasing, rolling hills of France. And then a Philip encounter, such as he extended to Nathanael, invited me to come and see.

We were heading back from two weeks in the Dordognes. Nearing the end of our second long day on the road, we were looking forward to being home when the engine coughed and died. We coasted to the side of the freeway, miles from anyway. With our three children safely on the verge, I headed down across a field to a farmhouse, to see if I might use their phone. No one home.

When I trudged back up to our car, I saw that another vehicle had pulled up behind. “Just married” was scrawled across the rear window. A young man and woman were engaged in a charades-like conversation with my kids and their mom.

Ditching the couple’s Flemish and our English, we met over our equally limited French. The young woman volunteered to stay with my family while her husband took me off in his car in search of a garage.

When we returned about 45 minutes later, without success, I expected them to express regrets, wish us well, and head off. But no. They found some rope and insisted on towing us to the next exit, where we could leave our vehicle on the forecourt of an auto repair shop. It was closed, so they invited us to stay with them overnight and sort things out in the morning.

Lack of any other options overcame our normal British reserve, so the seven of us set off crammed in their small car, one of my sons whispering in my ear, “Dad, are they angels?”

When we got to their house, the couple announced that they’d been on their way to visit family when they had stopped to try and help, and needed to get over there. They let us in to their place, told us to use whatever we needed, and headed off—but not before giving us the keys to their other vehicle, in case we wanted to go exploring.

When our rescuers returned a few hours later, it was with a classic Belgian tart, a gift from the relatives who had heard of the poor Brits’ plight. Sharing a tri-lingual dictionary, we swapped life stories into the night.

They took us to a local mechanic’s the next morning to help with translation. And when they learned that we didn’t have on hand the money needed to pay for the repairs, and no way of getting it because the banks were closed for a national holiday, they paid and told us we could refund them in due course.

We finally drove home to Amsterdam shaking our heads in gratitude and disbelief—probably in similar fashion, though a bit less gingerly, to the man who woke up in an inn after being mugged on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. A Samaritan coming to his rescue?

The man left by the roadside by a robbery was shocked by his benefactor while I, left there by breaking down rather than being beaten up, was surprised by mine. Both reactions revealed prejudice, mine just less a little less obvious. Sometimes it’s only through our helplessness that we hear an echo of Philip’s invitation to “come and see.” It becomes God’s gift, revealing the Nazareths etched on the roadmap of our hearts.

2 Responses to “Naming our Nazareths”

  1. Tom Lacey

    I enjoy your “life’s stories” Andy and the gems we can learn from them. I wish a Merry Christmas to you and yours.


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