As a follow up to last week’s discussion (Derailed) here is a further reflection on the challenge of feeling that somehow we are no longer on the mainline. This is a challenge for most of us mission workers who are more like Martha than Mary, because we have an urgent desire to be getting somewhere in our ministry. Such is the impact of the Protestant Work Ethic on our thinking.
Even though we may wish to be thundering at full speed down the mainline, pulling a prestigious express full of significant people, God may have extremely valid reasons for wanting to stop us for a bit. We find the experience frustrating, but we need to remember that it’s not all about us, and there may be other parts of the rail network having an impact on our personal journey. So here are some reasons why trains unaccountably stop from time to time (other than to let Edward Thomas write a poem about it).
- Filling up. Trains need to refuel and while it’s normally done at specific times (such as home assignment) it occasionally needs to be done at other times too. Take the opportunity to go on a longer retreat than you might normally have time for, or have an extra debrief to make sure you’re ready to go when the signal changes.
- Collecting other carriages. Sometimes the train I’m on waits at a station for another train to come in behind it and be coupled up to make one longer train. Is this an opportunity for you to take new supporters on your journey with you? Spend more time investing in your sending church and building relationships. Maybe you can recruit some new team members.
- Waiting for the line to clear. Sometimes the signal is at red because there is a blockage down the road that needs to be cleared. I have experienced times when other things have needed to fall in place before I can get on with what I feel God has given me to do. Or perhaps another train is coming through and we need to get out of its way or it would damage us.
- Taking an alternative route. How often does God take us down a branch line for no obvious reason? Maybe it’s just to enjoy the scenery, and pootle along at a gentler pace.
- Routine maintenance. Well, now you’ve got the time, go and see the doctor, dentist, optician, counsellor, life coach… Make the most of your pause and check all the moving parts are properly greased!
Finally, if you feel you’re stuck in the station waiting for the light to turn green, why not take the time to look around and see who else is in the station? Maybe it’s time to make some new friends.
We can’t always tell why God shunts us into a siding at times. Why did Jesus have to wait until his 30s? David sitting in the desert on the run from Saul must have thought his calling would never happen. Moses had to spend 40 years in the wilderness thinking he’d missed his opportunity. What was Paul doing with his life before Barnabas brought him to Antioch? But if we can learn one thing from this experience is that it’s God who is in the signal box, not us, and we have to learn to trust him to pull the right levers at the right time.