We have out home group coming round next Tuesday for a barbecue so we thought we had better make sure that our new fire pit barbecue worked o.k. It was a lovely sunny evening but a bit windy. The barbecue worked fine, although the wind meant that the smoke blew in the direction of our patio table and chairs. Julia took charge of barbecuing the various stuff we intended cooking, and it was quite amusing watching her cooking behind a curtain of smoke, emerging now and then from the cloud of smoke with plates of food! Fortunately the barbecue eventually stopped smoking and we were able to enjoy our meal without coughing and choking on the smoke.
I was reminded of that verse in the bible that tells us that at present we see through ‘a glass darkly’ or in ‘a mirror dimly’ (1 Corinthians 13:12), that is, we don’t see all kinds of things clearly now, but one day in the future everything will become clear to us. This is true about really important things to do with the meaning of life, but it can also be true about every day things as well. For Julia and myself, having to leave the pastorate of Beckenham Baptist Church in the autumn of 2010, was rather like being cast adrift. Suddenly, unexpectedly, we lost our jobs, our ministry, our home, our friends and were cast into darkness. It has been a long haul back, and the future has often seemed to us like looking through smoke at something that had some kind of shape and form but which remained indistinct.
It has taken us some time to recover from the hurt and pain of leaving Beckenham, but we have become more and more convinced that God hasn’t finished with us and still has a work for us to do. Smoke and mirrors is a metaphor for a deceptive, fraudulent or insubstantial explanation or description. The source of the name is based on magicians’ illusions, where magicians make objects appear or disappear by extending or retracting mirrors amid a distracting burst of smoke. In the field of computer programming, however, it is used to describe a program or functionality that does not yet exist, but appears as though it does. This is often done to demonstrate what a resulting project will function or look like after the code is complete. Throughout the last 18 months we have become more an more convinced that ‘God has plans for us, plans for good and not for evil, plans to give us hope and a future’ (Jeremiah 29:11) and that these plans incorporated a return to ministry for us somewhere or other. That is the reality – it doesn’t exist as yet – but by God’s grace it is going to!
The Baptist Union Settlement Process has been slow going with many false trails. This has not bothered us unduly because we wanted to make sure that Julia was fully recovered from her ME, and that we eventually settled in the right situation – a situation that would be caring and supportive for Julia (who would be the Minister), and would also give me the opportunity to exercise a wider ministry (since I would be there as a non-stipendiary Minister) supporting Julia but helping out elsewhere from time to time.
Nevertheless it has still seemed at times, that we are peering through a fog of smoke – we see shapes but not form! We believe that we will know the situation when we see it, just as we knew Elm Road, Beckenham was the right situation (as they knew we were the right people to be their Pastors) when we went there in 2004.
Next Monday we are going to meet with the leadership of a small church here in the south west. We don’t know if it is the right situation, but it is encouraging for Julia especially to be approached about the possibility of her becoming their Minister. Please pray for us, and for them, that we may clearly discern the Lord’s will in this.