Sunday, December 23, 2007

Way Beyond the Red Line

Various things have happened to me over the weekend which are leading me to conclude that God is totally putting me through the ringer at the moment. I've been contemplating what my calling should be and the direction my life should be heading in for a while now; all of a sudden though, it's gone completely mental.... like riding a horse you thought was tame but then explodes off into a gallop at breakneck speed unexpectedly. I decided to write it down here, partly to share but also to make sure I do not forget.

It started off subtly. Earlier in the week, I had a dream where a deceased friend gave me a lift in his car to somewhere random... and upon waking it reminded me of a blog entry I had written - a blog entry that I discovered had been accessed later that day by someone who was searching for that friend's name on Google. It was this entry.

Then over the weekend,for reasons I don't need to go into, I was reminded very strongly of another post; one where I adapted a philosophical quote by the Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi:

One night, Zhuangzi dreamed of being a butterfly — a happy butterfly, showing off and doing things as he pleased, unaware of being Zhuangzi. Suddenly he awoke, drowsily, Zhuangzi again. And he could not tell whether it was Zhuangzi who had dreamt the butterfly or the butterfly dreaming Zhuangzi. But there must be some difference between them! This is called 'the transformation of things'.

Back then, I reworded it to suit a more personal challenge:

"Are you the man of God who dreams of being a man with a normal everyday life... or are you the man with an everyday life, who dreams of being a man of God?"

I deduced that I was more the latter... but I didn't come to any hard and fast conclusions as to what that might in terms of calling or vocation.

I found myself in a position last night where my peace had been disturbed... but that's not a bad thing. We can get too settled with peace and become stagnant if we are not careful. It's a bit like hitting the snooze button repeatedly when you know you need to get up for work. During this time I was reminded of a passage in the Bible that I believe was a personal warning:

"Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'

" 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.' "

Luke 13:6-9

Upon waking this morning I caught the end of a debate about the realism behind the Christmas story (something I intend to cover myself), I was appalled that the man who most readily dismissed elements of the nativity as fable... was a Church of England chaplain; it was left to two doctors of theology to defend certain elements of the Nativity.

Then when I came to check my email, my Last FM player pipes up with a track from the Prince of Egypt:

This is a film that always evokes an emotional response from me, most notably in the sequence where God meets Moses from within the Burning Bush. That sequence can be found in the middle of this clip:

Interestingly, all the personal back references I have made are all interconnected.

Back to today... and I decided to set off on foot for my church 2.5 miles away. It's something I recommend, it's a great opportunity to communicate with God when no one else can distract you... and it was a very busy discussion today. The passage from the previous evening came back to my mind and I was also reminded of a vision I had a while back of an eagle stripping it's nest so it's young could fly.

I felt God say to me that he doesn't need to strip any more away from me in order for me to leave. I am ready and I am able, but he is frustrated that I have not been completely willing. Like Moses and Jonah before me, I have clutched onto the tatters of the nest in order to resist facing what is before me. God doesn't want to take anything else away, but by being stubborn I run the risk of forcing his hand... and anything I lose now is as a consequence of any reluctance I might have.

Then I was brought to thinking about Smallville. Yes that sounds pretty random but bear with me. I actually like the programme, but am frustrated with it. I was asked in my heart "What do you not like about Smallville, Nick?" The honest answer to that is the fact that it has been dragged out, it has gone on and on. The writers have found newer ways to stretch out Clark Kent's evolution into the Man of Steel. At the moment he's ready to do his training... but he's got to clear up his mess. Everything is set for him to become who he is destined to be... but he's still hanging round Smallville. Typing this reminds me very much of a scene from The Lord of the Rings, one that it now occurs to me I have also referenced in this blog:

"The man who can wield the power of this sword can summon to him an army more deadly than any that walks this earth. Put aside the ranger. Become who you were born to be."
Elrond - The Return of the King

So it seems I'm in the same position as Clark and Aragorn... remaining in the wilderness when I should be committing myself to who I really am.

I wasn't even safe when I arrived at church. The combined theme of the carol service, the readings and the talk was spiritual offering. And one of the things that was raised was calling/vocation. We were shown a picture of a statue - a monk standing cruciform and holding his possessions before him. It was quite striking:

It gave me a fair bit to think about. Then we were challenged to think about something we could offer God and wrap a stone that representing it in Christmas paper...and leave it at the manger. Three guesses what was on my heart and mind to put in there. While we were being asked to do that, my mind drifted to the carol "In the Bleak Midwinter", specifically the last verse:

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
yet what I can I give him: give my heart.

It was not on the carol sheet for the service... but do you know what? The organist started playing it about 30 seconds after it popped into my head.

Finally after the service I spoke to a couple of friends who were visiting my church for the day. I told them what I was feeling challenged over and their overall reaction was pretty much "Oh Nick, it's about time!"

I chose the title for this blog entry because I feel that in such a short space of time I have been catapulted into a different place. I wasn't entirely comfortable with the sudden burst of speed. However I much prefer this to silence... and so whilst God has seemingly given me a lot to act upon, I am grateful for the activity.

God bless you all


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