ONLY TAKE SAFE RISKS!??
My father told me on many occasions, probably with tongue in cheek, “I only take safe risks!”
A contradiction in terms, but a position many of us take in life. We like the thought of jumping over the edge with a parachute, exploring beyond the horizon, living outside our comfort zones – but not many of us find it easy to live that way.
I know people who reach retirement age, who have worked hard all their lives to pay the mortgage and do the right thing by the family, and end up wondering what happened to their lives.
LIVING WITH REGRET AT THE END OF YOUR LIFE JOURNEY IS AN UNPLEASANT PLACE TO BE.
So when the opportunity came to move out of London to a place I’d never heard of, it was a daunting prospect and bordering on madness in the eyes of many people around our family. I’m not sure what was going on with my father at this time, but he was certainly acting out of character. Taking up an offer by my Uncle Frank to take ownership of a piece of building land on an unmade road on the Isle Of Sheppey in Kent, was, without doubt, a leap into the dark.
BUT SOMETIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO JUMP.
In 2013 something struck me at a Christian Conference I was attending with my wife, Sarah, that has stayed with me. It was the first preach by the new Archbishop Of Canterbury, Rt Revd Justin Welby at New Wine. During the course of his sermon to a packed audience he said, “Sometimes you have to leap before you look!”
It reminded me of my own life journey and the many times I have done just that. It reminded me too of the first time I experienced this dangerous principle – the day we upped sticks and drove 50 miles East to an Island on the Thames Estuary, known to many as The Isle Of Sheep.
I suppose even in the place name there was a strange prophetic voice in my ear, because one day God would call me to be a shepherd of the sheep as Pastor of a church.
I can still smell the couch grass burning as we took a scythe to the overgrown patch of land that would become my home from age 12 to 19 when I moved back to London to train for the Baptist Ministry at Spurgeon’s Theological College on South Norwood Hill.
My father had an ingenious idea to buy an old post war prefabricated bungalow and use this as a temporary home, while we got settled. The adventure began when we moved in. Nelson Avenue was an unmade road at the bottom of the hill in the village of Minster, where stood the oldest Abbey Church in England.
We had to face several shocks during the first year. The first happened during the Winter when the road became so muddy it was a challenge getting our old car up the road. The second came as we realised that as Londoners, we were the “outsiders”. We never really lived that down. The third shock, which raised the stress levels in the house, was that my father, a skilled builder and decorator, struggled to find work.
There are consequences when you jump. But I’m glad we did because the life lessons learned during these few short years have reinforced my faith in a God who loves, cares and sustains, even when you land in the mud!