Sunday, February 17, 2008

Nick Payne: International Man of Mystery?

Life's become pretty interesting 0ver the last couple of weeks.

I met with a vicar in the first week of February, whilst I had some annual leave booked. The meeting did not go at all how I expected or if I'm honest, how I intended.

I was investigating the possibility of having some kind of ministry... but that road didn't get travelled down. I was warned that I'm the kind of person who if not careful, would spend my life defining myself through others. The recommendation given to me instead, was to go out and have a few adventures in the wider world... or as it was put to me, "increase my vistas" and not just confine myself to working for God within a limited radius.

The first thing I'm going to do is put myself to the test. I said of myself in recent months, that I felt less scared about the prospect of flying; now I'm going to see if I can do something about it. This first step isn't about doing something like committing my life to the mission field, it is about widening my experience of the world for the first time... and seeing if a fear is merely repressed, or if it is conquered.

I remember at school, we once started to read a book called "The Boy Who Was Afraid" (originally published in the US as "Call it Courage"). The book tells the tale of a Polynesian boy named Mafatu, who is a shame and disgrace to his sea-faring people because he is afraid of the waters that they live on day to day. His shame is made all the worse because he is no less than the chief's son. Eventually the continual teasing wears Mafatu down... and he makes a decision. Mafatu sets out in secret to prove himself alone on the seas, with nothing but a dog and an albatross to keep him company and...

... that is pretty much as far as we got in the book at school. Something tells me I should go back and read the rest of the story. Yes it's a children's story, but I've never forgotten that first section that I just quoted... and from what little I know of him, I feel I can relate to Mafatu. Now I'm standing on the shore myself with my own "canoe", shame and disgrace behind me, adventure before me. What is my choice going to be this time? How many more false dawns must I go through before embracing what seems inevitable?

Another thing that has remained with me in recent years is an exchange of dialogue from the film Jurassic Park III. It comes during a scene where Dr Alan Grant is regretting some harsh things he had said to his companion, Billy. He is talking to a boy named Erik, who he has helped rescue:

Dr Grant: I have a theory that there are two kinds of boys. There are those that want to be astronomers, and those that want to be astronauts. The astronomer, or the paleontologist, gets to study these amazing things from a place of complete safety.

Erik: But then you never get to go into space.

Dr Grant: Exactly. That's the difference between imagining and seeing: to be able to touch them. And that's... that's all that Billy wanted.

A field of beautiful dinosaurs comes into view.

Erik: Dr. Grant, know something Dr. Grant? Billy was right.

Now I'll tell you something, as a child I always dreamed of being an astronaut... but I realise that somewhere along the journey I lost my way and became more of an astronomer.

A few weeks ago, when things got hard for me... I was given a timely word from a bookmark:

"The path you walk on may be dark indeed, but trust in the Lord, rely on your God."

I realise now that it had a much deeper significance than for just the situation I was facing. For another passage that has been close to my heart over the past couple of years, has been this one:

"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them."
Isaiah 42:16

The catch is... if you want the darkness to be turned into light... and you want the rough places to become smooth, you must first be willing to walk into those very places.

Furthermore, another verse was given to me from Isaiah:

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."
Isaiah 43:2

Equally, the catch there is that in order not to be drowned or scorched... you need to have the courage to walk towards tsunami and inferno, and trust in God against those mutual spiritual imposters.

Now I'm a man who likes to analyse and study the roads and paths before me... and therein has lay part of the problem. I always try and work out the puzzle before setting off on the voyage... acting like the astronomer and not the astronaut. I believe this is why God has been talking to me of my path becoming dark. If I think I can see ways forward I'm going to explore all of them from the comfort of my armchair. If I step out blindly into total darkness, I need to trust in God's guidance completely. I've been advised to do something that cannot be justified or rationalised... just done for the sake of doing.

I was also warned that I need to be wary of counterfeit experiences. That there are easier hurdles that look like they give the same answers... but don't.

That's why this is something I need to do alone.

Just myself and God.

I can't define my destinations and my courses of action by being dependant on other people's suggestions. I can't sit and ponder over the maps other people have made. I need to go out and make a few of my own. I need to pick a random destination and just go there and meet whoever I find out there. In fact I already have a couple of ideas where I could go.

It's time to head out to the launchpad.


  1. Wishing you a safe 'take-off' and a rewarding and fulfilling adventure.

  2. Thanks Malcolm1

    A happy landing would be nice too ;-)


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