Well, folks, it’s homeward bound!
Back to my responsive desktop and to a reasonably fast internet speed, same challenge but this time a plane to catch – in three hours time. No pressure there
I continue to be amazed at the speed of international travel nowadays.
As a boy my father took us on holiday to Costa Brava – overland, by train. Our return journey would take an unbroken 36 hours. For a child it took forever as I peered at the passing French countryside in early dawn. Field after field, town after town, on and on.
Now it’s a case of lunch in Los Cristianos as we soak up the sun and then, before we know it, beans on toast in the chill of a dark Aughton evening as the rain lashes the windows. Just like that! (I exaggerate for effect; at least I hope so).
But we need to recognise transition and not to move too quickly between places and experiences. Very simply it takes time to adjust. That’s why I prefer to walk rather than drive around the parish.
This is particularly so for those moving abruptly out of conflict zones.
You may remember this summer how surgeon Dr David Nott, who served with Medecins Sans Frontieres, was unable to reply when asked by the Queen about his experience in Aleppo. Sensing he was “seriously traumatised”, the Queen asked if she could help before calling for her corgis.
Dr Nott told Desert Island Discs the dogs had a therapeutic effect. Clearly he needed to adjust to ordinary, everyday life. And this takes time. It cannot be hurried.
Only yesterday Jacqui shared with me a quote from the Ian Rankin novel she is reading. Here Inspector Rebus observes “More Falkland veterans have taken their own lives that were killed in the conflict.”
I’ve heard this before – and just a few years ago I checked it out with one of the officers, a Royal Marine, who had been involved in the campaign. It seems, he told me, there was a big difference in the mental health between those who had flown straight home to the UK and those who had returned by ship in the Task Force.
Those extra ten days or so made all the difference in making the very difficult transition from the battlefield to the school playing field. And more, this was made collectively. Mutual encouragement is everything.
The most significant transition in the Bible was the time it took the people of Israel to move from slavery in Egypt to freedom in God’s promised land. We know from Deuteronomy 1:2 that it should have taken only eleven days to go from Horeb to the border town of Kadesh Barnea. In fact, it took no less than 40 years of wandering around the wilderness.
At the time it seemed a huge failure – failing to take God at his word and seize the moment. So God had to teach his people to trust him the hard way.
But in retrospect the Hebrew prophets saw these wilderness years as a time of real blessing, as God step by step taught his people to trust. After all it was at Mount Sinai when the covenant between God and this wayward people was forged as Moses received the Ten Commandments.
One interesting fact for you is that the root of the Hebrew word for wilderness, midbar, has the meaning of “speak” or “word.” The wilderness is the place where God speaks and more to the point, where we learn to listen.
This was clearly important for Jesus, literally. The Holy Spirit, Mark tells us, drove him into the wilderness for 40 days following his baptism at the very beginning of his ministry. A key transition moment.
Here he quotes directly from the Hebrew Scriptures: ”God humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”(Deuteronomy 8.3).
Here the people of God were making the painful transition from being slaves in Egypt, subject to the whims of their taskmasters to the responsibilities of living in the promised land of milk and honey. Their calling? To be a light to the nations.
So for us as disciples of Jesus. We are all in transition, as God prepares us for the next significant event or task required of us. It may well mean a whole new way of working, of serving him.
Such transitions are never easy and like my slow-running iPad cannot be hurried. And so we need to understand that there are seasons of preparation. Often they take longer than we would want. But at the same time we need to seize the moment when it comes.
As ever God is teaching us to trust his timing and be prepared for that Holy Spirit moment. Being able to recognise this when it happens is part of God’s preparation.