The Safest Road

“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts”

CS Lewis: The Screwtape Letters Ch 12

I’ve walked a fairly “safe” road the last few years spiritually. If you’ve read much of this blog, that may be a surprise to you as my writing tends to be from my heart but my actions in my daily walk get diluted by the issues of a daily battle, complicated by studying, working, married life and so on.

We all suffer these distractions if we are not careful. I lost sight of how blinkered I’d become until recently when my wife and I were forced to take several major steps of Faith. We made them tentatively at first, leaving the flat where we had been living for a year to move back in with my mum and finally making the decision to finally and definitely move to England as soon as possible. Within a few days of the final hard decision being made, and me declaring that “No matter what, we will move to England in the next three months”, my wife was contacted by a new agency, had an interview with a company she had previously been introduced to by another agency and rejected by, and offered a permanent job in Somerset to begin as soon as possible. The interview was last Thursday, the offer made on Friday morning, just nine hours later. We went out to dinner to celebrate Friday night and…

I was admitted to hospital on Saturday morning with a mystery infection in my foot that isn’t responding to prayer (first rebuttal attack as always), oral antibiotics, steroids or any other medications. My sugar control shot to pieces and so now I write from a hospital bed, not feeling even slightly ill, but told it could be quite serious. The phrase “e-coli” has even been thrown around this morning!

All I can do is laugh! I think it’s getting to my fellow inmates, but it’s nice to be the most positive voice in the room. I have things in common with everyone, some of which I can share – a love of motorbikes, a dislike of crashing motorbikes, quality and portion sizes of hospital food and how hard it is to sleep in hospital – and some of which I have been told in confidence, and I will not break that.

Something that has been hard for me in the last 24 hours has been to sit still. I don’t have much of an option here, but with my head racing at a billion miles an hour being forced to sit still is not a bad thing. I chatted to David, the chap in the bed opposite me, for a while this morning. Neither of us slept much last night but I found myself suddenly sharing a part of my testimony I’ve not spoken out loud in over ten years with him. I don’t expect to see a harvest personally, but it felt like planting a seed for the first time in years. I’ll leave it to God what happens next for him, but for me I found a sudden peace and stillness I’ve missed for years. Then I decided to open my Christmas Present to myself – a book of devotionals called “Knowing the Heart of God” by John Eldredge. Today’s passage was 1 Samuel 3:9 “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”.

Apparently God has a sense of humour – but I’ve thought this for 30 years.

There is much to do before I can move to England. Our dogs must be quarantined for rabies and housed in suitable kennels for the duration. I feel dreadful leaving them for so long, but the upside will be having them with us or their twilight years as they are both over ten now, so for big dogs they are ageing now.

dsc00031Their father, Cadbury, died of cancer as a young dog, but their mum, Beamer, only passed a few months ago at the age oIMG_20160531_154122f 12.

Losing her was a shock for us, the picture to the right was only taken a few weeks before she died and she was still very much herself, just a loss of appetite. It turned out that was caused by liver cancer and she would have only had a few weeks left and they would have been very painful. Having watched Cadbury deteriorate over three weeks from cancer a few years ago we elected to not let her suffer.

What does this have to do with a safe road though?

Basically, we were tempted to take the easy road.

A week ago I was offered a small business in South Africa for no financial investment. A friend’s father has decided to stop his gardening business and I was offered the use, for a profit share, of: the pickup, several top-of-the-line weed-eaters (strimmers) and petrol run gardening tools as well as a generator and some electrical equipment. I have some experience from a few years ago in building and garden maintenance and the thought of a ready-made business is beyond enticing at a time when a white foreigner in South Africa is almost unemployable.

The offer came days after I’d made the declaration about going to England, and it’s incredibly tempting. It’s easy work for me – employ a couple of men to do the heavy work, do the business management and marketing stuff myself and a nice little business to keep things ticking over here. A month ago I would have jumped on the chance, but I felt something say “Hold Back!”

So I asked for a few days to mull it over and discuss it with Rene. She reminded me of my declaration of Faith that we were going to England. Now the offer for England is there, and I’m working on not just the move, but also a series of Kindle books to publish via www.smile.amazon.com (that’s amazon.com but with a portion of your purchase being donated to the charity of your choice – mine is Andrew Wommack Ministries, but choose your own!) over the next two months for Lent, Easter, Ascension Day and Pentecost. It’s all happened so fast even my faster-than-normal brain is spinning!

It would be easy to say “let’s stay in Cape Town” and do the gardening and Rene stay in her practice.

Easy.

Safe.

But hunting lions is not easy, and it’s certainly not safe. I may be the first person in history to be leaving living in Africa to hunt his Lion!

My passion is Christ. I hope that is obvious from these scribblings. But I’ve found it near impossible to find a church I was able to integrate into here. I know it’s me, not the churches that’s the issue, but it still grates that it’s over ten years since I’ve been an actual member of a church locally. That’s not to say I’ve not attended, or that I’ve not had regular fellowship with other Christians, in particular my wife’s family and my dear friend Thuli Nkoyana (whose poem I published on this site here) without whose encouragement I may never have got this far with my writing.

But staying put is safe. At least, it seems to be.

If you get a chance to read Bruce Wilkinson’s book “The Dream Giver” then do so. The story of Ordinary, from a land of Nobody’s who dreams of being Somebody is great, but the disturbingly accurate description of the land he comes from where the people go to their normal job in their normal car then come home and sit in their normal chair and watch their box for entertainment is such an accurate picture of society – all it needs now is to add in iPads and Tablets and it’s today’s society. Scary stuff.

But as Ordinary sets off to leave the land of Familiar to pursue his dream he encounters resistance from people he least expects it from. It’s the same for us. If we go after what God puts in our hearts to do it upsets other people’s lives as well as our own. Our sudden absence (or presence) in their life changes their familiar dynamics. I know my mum isn’t looking forward to us moving. She’s become very quickly adapted to our presence in her home and has stated how much she’s going to miss us. But sometimes we have to follow our dream even if it means disrupting, even hurting, the people we love.

The thing is, taking the safe road usually means moving away from God’s Will for our life. Satan doesn’t resist people moving in the direction he wants them to move in. Or sometimes the resistance is a token easily overcome. We exchange our grand, God-given vision for a smaller, more comfortable one. And we quietly sit in our comfortable life, taking the safe road, dying and not even realising it or living a fraction of what God had stored up for us.

Take the road less travelled. There will be risks. There may be dangers untold and losses unexpected, but the rewards are greater.

But be warned, there are things that will happen:

  • Friends will abandon you
  • Family will disown you
  • You will have to choose between your call and your day-job (if they’re different)
  • You are declaring war on an enemy who will stop at nothing to destroy you.

It’s hard on the front line of the battle. The pioneers who went West and settled America or South and settled Australia, New Zealand and South Africa faced unimaginable hardships. The men fighting in the trenches on the Somme a century ago faced death from the enemy and from the living conditions.

Some quit the battle. They turn back and look for the easier road.

But ours is not a road that is easy.

But it leads to the only truly Safe destination.

Walking Through The Storm

Storm

This post has taken several drafts to get right. There are many storms in my life right now, and some have a profound impact on more than just me, so it makes it hard to write about them.

Testimony is a tricky thing sometimes. But I’m going to try to put it in here right…

There’s a lot of storms in my life right now. Personal finances, obstacles to pursuing the vision God gave me, but the biggest revolve around my health.

I have an intellectual understanding that Jesus paid for my health through the atonement, and that God would not withhold healing from me any more than He would withhold Salvation. It doesn’t help when my brain gets in the way of my Faith.

One of my heroes in the Gospels is Peter. Peter is a walking embodiment of “be careful what you ask for.”

 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”

Matthew 14:28

You have to respect Peter’s humanness. Crazy, but human.

What was Jesus going to respond? “It’s not me. Stay in the boat”?

Fear makes us do and say the craziest things sometimes. The boat was sinking. The storm swamping it. Peter knows the sea. He’s probably known men who had died in similar conditions. He knows the boat will sink.

But he sees Jesus is safe standing out on the water.

“Command me to come to You…”

I try to look to Jesus in the middle of my storms. Right now I take medication for diabetes, blood pressure problems I’ve never had, occasional bouts of anxiety due to PTSD, ADD, and most recently pain management for back pain. In the past I’ve also had depression, gout and a slew of other stuff that’s now dealt with.

But the storms are real. The impact they have is very real. They affect me and the people closest to me every time they strike.

Peter knew he would die if he didn’t do something different. But the way he did it was a bit crazy. He boxed Jesus into a situation He may not have intended. We all tend to do that sometimes.

But Peter was different.

After he boxes Jesus in, he doesn’t back down. Jesus says “Come” and Peter gets out of the boat and walks across the surface of the stormy sea towards Him. He only starts to falter as he’s almost at Jesus, and that’s when his brain kicks in and he looks at the storm instead of the Saviour.

Fascinatingly, Peter begins to sink. He doesn’t drop like a stone. His faith begins to be overwhelmed with fear and he starts to lose sight. But the time he’s already spent with Jesus has had some impact on him. He realises his predicament and calls out to Jesus.

He doesn’t try to go back to the boat.

He doesn’t try to swim.

He calls out to Christ and lets Jesus save him. Again.

It hit me when I re-read the story recently that Peter was essentially at Jesus’s side already. All Jesus does is reach out His hand to Peter. No wonder He asks “why did you doubt?” Peter has already done the hardest part – he stepped out and walked on the water. Only now he’s safe does he let fear take him.

We all do that as well. Within reach of our goal we quit.

But the Bible is full of stories of God’s Faithfulness when His children hold out for His intervention.

Daniel comes to mind. He’s more concerned about God than Nebuchadnezzar, so he allows himself to be thrown to the lions. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego walk through fire rather than give up and come through without even the smell of smoke on them (Daniel 3:27). Again, Daniel prays for 21 days until the angel appears. He refuses to give up on God, and rightly so because Gabriel’s words are “…from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.” (Daniel 10:12-13)

Joseph waits, first as a slave, then as a prisoner. He never stops expecting God’s promise to him to be fulfilled. Years pass before he is elevated to Prime Minister of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh and from there he is given God’s wisdom to save the known world from the famine. King David is pursued for years by Saul after he is anointed king by Samuel, and he never gives up his integrity even when Saul is delivered into his hands, he refuses to lay a hand on God’s anointed.

Others including Esther, Elijah, Elisha, Ruth and Abraham all wait faithfully (eventually) for God’s promise to be fulfilled. In fact, Christians are a part of God’s promise to Abraham.

So why do we have such trouble waiting for God in the storm?

I touched on it in a previous post. We live in a fast-food society. There’s no space in our lives for weathering a storm if it isn’t over instantly.

Sometimes we look for an answer where we ask the wrong question, or with wrong motives. But sometimes it’s simply that we only planted the seed this morning. A harvest takes time to grow.

Miracles are, of course, an exception. Sometimes God moves by cutting through our circumstances, according to the power at work in us. We limit His ability to give through our ability to receive. But even then, He gives us grace and strength to weather the storm.

We just need to learn to stand.