When God bounces your life up and down
“Let me tell you a story.” This could be an introduction to the scriptures – for that is what the Bible is, a story, with a beginning, middle and end. Even those parts of the Bible – the law code, proverbs, Paul’s epistles, for example – which do not seem to be story-telling can only be fully understood in their original context, of belonging to a narrative. Above all, Jesus delighted in telling a story, often without explanation and usually to the puzzlement of his listeners. We love stories. For the earlier part of this week I attended a conference/retreat at Sarum College in Salisbury at the request of the Diocese. It was for those who have been in ministry for a long time. I brought my bus pass, just in case. At the heart of this excellent three day time of teaching and reflection, we were encouraged to describe our story of being in ministry, from the first hints of a call to the present day. First, as part of a timeline, using coloured pens and an A1 page. Yes, A1 – we were expected to go into some detail. Then, to share in small groups of five. What really helped was the amount of time we were given to remember, recall, reflect and staying on the theme of activities beginning with R, to run - when I do these things best. Others simply sat or wandered around the building next door, which happened to be Salisbury Cathedral. (Photo attached, when I found myself alone in the building for the early morning service). What came out of this exercise of looking back is that I discovered that the most important parts of my life seemed to begin with a period of uncertainty and some confusion. Then something unexpected would happen, often a chance event, through which God spoke.
This resonated with our Bible studies on the story of the call of Moses. Moses, now somewhat elderly, even older than me, was looking after his father-in-law’s sheep. I suppose he expected that was now his life, even though he often thought about the situation he had fled from in Egypt. He was probably very troubled, carrying a burden of guilt and personal failure. If he wasn’t, then he should have been. In Exodus 3:2 something odd happens, he sees a bush blazing away but it didn’t burn up. So he decides to walk towards it to see what was happening. God now has his attention. No one like being uncertain and unsure of the future – but it gives God space, an opportunity to change the direction of our life. As I write these words now, I remember how at the time I described how God called me to ordination. It was like the physics experiment at school when we poured iron filings onto a sheet of paper over a strong magnet. As you shook the paper and bounce the filings up and down, they began to reveal the underlying magnetic field. And God was shaking my life. This may be you today. God is unsettling you. It seems that life is bouncing you up and down. Then, be alert to anything unexpected, odd, unanticipated. And like Moses take time out “to turn aside and see this great sight.” God may be at work. Like Moses, you may not like what God is saying but that’s not the point. The point is that you are on track to do his will.