I just altered a recent post on speech and character.  I regretted using someone else’s illustration, so I replaced it with one of my own.  I felt it was a matter of authenticity.  I enjoy writing for writing’s sake, but I want it to relate to my own real life.

As I write this in the comfiest chair in the house, the one I rescued from a waste disposal centre, my wife and daughter are 5,000 miles away – 3 weeks into a 3-month stay with family in California.  My father-in-law has Alzheimers, and my wife needs to spend time with her family.  I’m alone in the house, but we Skype every day.  I continue to run a small fitted-furniture business, but once I leave to join my family in mid March all my business obligations will be put to bed (for reasons touched on here).  On our return I will begin working for a friend’s timber framing company.

It’s tempting to describe where I am now as ‘limbo’.  A family man living like a bachelor.  Running a successful business that I intend to stop.  Waiting.  Missing them.   And yet it is one of the most exciting periods of my life.  These circumstances, and others not mentioned here, have conspired to loosen my grip on life – and on the things that are important to me – in an entirely positive way.

Northumbria Seascape3 Years ago my wife and I took a short holiday to Alnmouth in Nothumbria.  Our future hopes were in doubt – medical complications made it difficult for us to have children of our own.  And we were still reeling from the news that a boy we had set out hearts on adopting was now being adopted by another couple.  For me, this was one more disappointment – one more apparent failure of prayer – on top of others too deeply felt to try and summarise here.

Alnmouth is a beautiful place.  Early one evening I was standing on a rock on the beach (actually a very large concrete block) looking out to sea.  The waves rushed in all around me.  My feet were submerged and all I could see was fast-moving water.  Yet my footing remained solid, and when I lifted my eyes I saw a rainbow.   My beautiful daughter, whose middle name is Hope, was conceived within a few weeks of this time, and went on to be born healthy and safe, against the odds.

Now she is far away and I, her father, have to trust that she will be OK without me, until I see her again.

Trust.  Somehow I have rediscovered it recently, along with Hope.  My cousin, who lost a much longed-for baby, talked about not being able to look God in the eye.  I have felt the same for a long time.  But lately something has changed.

Despite (or because of) my uncertain circumstances I have discovered a purer hope and trust in God.  And it didn’t come from Him answering my questions, of which there are many.  It began with the struggle in my soul over money, priorities, and purpose, centred on my business.  And like many choices we face, the real issue was not whether I chose to keep running a business or do something else – the real issue was was my heart.  Where was my security?  Where was my identity?  Had all my years as a Christian up until now hidden one central hypocrisy that my ‘Lord’ was not really Lord of my life at all?

The choice I made to relinquish the business was about toppling an idol.  If and when I pick up the business again, it must be as a tool, not as my master.  But right now I don’t know what I will do long term – pursue timber framing, return to my business, or even something else entirely – and I’m OK with that.  I feel God is saying to step out with Him, and what He unfolds is in His hands.  The not-knowing is part of the process.

One day last week, tired from work, I laid on the couch and listened to some Jason Upton music.  My thoughts went back to that rushing sea in Northumbria, and I imagined not only the rushing sea but an earthquake that shook me off my feet until all I could do was cling on to that rock through the water, as everything crashed and shook all around.

In the past I would have been disturbed at the shaking, but now I felt comforted by the rock.  Lately I am doing things boldly that for a long time I only talked about doing (volunteering at the local youth club, joining a community action group, writing, talking easily about the faith that is now more real to me than it was before).  I am wary this could just be a phase.  But for now at least, it feels like I am stepping out on the journey of faith as it was intended to be walked, and I am walking on solid ground.