It had just started to snow that soggy, icy kind of snow as the Inverness train pulled out of Haymarket Station. I wasn’t going to Ness though, I was going home, and that line in itself is telling. It is also telling that the first thing I did when I sat down was stare out of the window for a long time, just pleading for help, and the second thing was to dig this spare piece of paper out of my bag (the blank back page of an article on apostasy in Hebrews) and write.
The lights of Edinburgh seemed to go on and on as though we’d never leave the place, little lights, frail but bright, and the sleet danced like sparks in their glow.
I don’t recall whether I’ve said it here or not-
Funny that but the words of a Dr Seuss poem, Marvin K. Mooney, just slipped unbidden into my thoughts:
The time has come, the time is now,
We don’t care where, we don’t care how
But Marvin K Mooney will you please go now
It is not unusual to have loose leaf poetry floating around in my head but I will come back to that. Forgive the aside, it has its significance.
— I don’t recall whether I’ve said it here or not but I know that in my journal, and perhaps a personal letter to a friend, I have expressed the feeling and it bears repetition now:
For a while now I have felt like a racehorse in the starting gate. I have been growing and building up strength for some time now. I can smell the fresh earth and see the brightness of the turf stretching out before me and somewhere, vaguely, there are jumps out there waiting. And I want to be out there running.
But the gate is closed. I am waiting for the gun. And every muscle is aching to run and everything is straining to hear the signal.
You may or may not know that I’ve been thinking about what to do when I graduate in May. Postgrad studies are an option. Perhaps TEFL training. There was a vague possibility of an internship. I’ve been leaning towards carrying on in academia.
Then I came home for Christmas.
Now I’m sitting on a train and I feel close to tears. I feel like I am myself again, that all along a hundred things were dulling me so that I could bury the certainty deep within and talk myself into rationality. So what changed?
I had a brief conversation with a very good friend. For those who doubt or do not understand the truth that iron sharpens iron, they might consider the depth and the nature of the friendships they hold most dear. One brief conversation with faithful friends can do more for you than a hundred with anyone else.
Sure, learning is invigorating in that it keeps my mind sharp and alert but it does little, if anything, to keep my soul healthy. That is a battle fought outwith the academy.
So, to be logical and sensible, I am coming to the end of a degree. I’m kinda bright and reasonably motivated and still relatively young. With the input of my tutors, I could go on and do more. It’s that potential thing again isn’t it? It sounds pretty exciting, right? And a natural path to follow. If I’m careful to keep the balance, my work could be of use to the church, no? I told my lecturer I’d make a decision after Christmas. I’m in no hurry, and there were some people I wanted to talk to first.
And then Christmas happened and that’s why I’m sitting here close to tears, but more settled than I have been for a long, long time. I should be anxious, like I have been about so many other more certain things, but I’m not. I’m excited. The decision is made and here’s how.
Over Christmas, I was planning to do as much reading as possible for my dissertation — and don’t get me wrong, I’ve done a chunk. But other things somehow took priority. Like two Mormon missionaries who accosted me in the street, and a young student who wore questions like some people wear shoes and who was reading both Milton and Paul. And I didn’t see it.
Until I was sitting at the table this morning enjoying my best friend’s company and her flu-ridden father dragged himself from his bed to sit with us for twenty minutes.
He asked me about my plans. I told him I wasn’t decided, but I was thinking postgrad and had hoped for his advice. The fact that he was gentle and well-mannered was enough to tell me that we were having a serious conversation coming from the heart. Any anxiety or defensiveness was broken down.
With typical precision, he pinpointed the underlying issue: I want to be of use in the church. And then with great care, he told me that he didn’t know what would happen in the next few months never mind beyond that. He had no idea where things were going to go. But things were definitely moving. The church-planting partnership he heads up is growing and so many opportunities are arising.
Come work for us. I can’t promise anything about anything, but come work with us. Be of use to the church.
I’m tearing up again. Folks think I’m made of stone or something when they don’t know me, but it doesn’t take much to move me, just the right things. And this conversation was one of those things because I know these guys. I’ve known them from the beginning and they are very particular. And I’m touched, honoured, and not a little terrified by the proposal.
Perhaps I’ve known all along. This is right, this is good, this is completely irrational, the rest of the world will scratch its head. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while. I don’t feel ready or equipped or mature enough. But I am not cut out for classrooms. Things that burn really shouldn’t be kept near books. Especially dry ones.
If my future was about me, I’d go ahead and do a PhD, become a lecturer and, having proven I’m clever, teach others to be clever too. But it’s not. It hasn’t been since the Easter after my tenth birthday. So maybe I’ll do the statistics-finding and phone-calling and planning and leafleting and coffee-brewing instead. It’s unseen and uncertain, but if it frees up others to be more effective in teaching and training and evangelism and church-planting then I’m buzzing for it. It’s so exciting to look forward in hope and faith to all that God will be doing. We will see people reached and churches planted and leaders raised and no one will remember who we were.
It has stopped snowing now and the pavements are clean and white, empty and waiting. It feels cathartic in its stillness. Written in my mind are the words my mother read to me time and time again when I was small:
The time has come, the time is now,
. . .Marvin K. Mooney will you please go now.