‘Stagnant and Lost’

Last week I had a week of holiday. Amongst a lot of doing very little it provided an opportunity to reflect on life ahead of Christine finishing her phd and starting work in Huddersfield at the start of May.

I effectively spend 12 hours of every weekday on the way to, or at work. And I realised that I wasn’t happy with either the commute, or my role. I was summing myself up in two words – stagnant and lost.

But on the back of this evening I’m reclaiming myself and rejecting those words.

I’ve just got home from a prayer meeting where it became apparent that God was gently mocking me. Five things neatly coincide in a way that has reset my thinking.

1. Dave Burton

Our best man works for an amazing NGO in Bangladesh. This despite an MA research focus on Zimbabwe.

He lives in Dhaka. We visited him last Easter. I can say from first hand experience that it’s not a wonderful place. In fact, the Economist recently ranked it the second least desirable place to live in the world. Dave blogged about this on Tuesday.

Insofar as I have the right to talk about development anywhere, I can talk about it in Zimbabwe. One might expect, therefore, that rather than living in Dhaka right now, I could be living in Zimbabwe. In Harare in fact.

Which is the only city in the world ranked lower than Dhaka for liveability.

I feel the affectionate but raucous laughter of God at this point, and will remember it whenever I feel inclined to complain about the city he has sent me to.

If I’d have followed my own path, it would have led me to the only city in the world which is worse.

2a. Conversations

My church normally meets in York Revolutions’ new Rum bar Revolucion de Cuba on aWednesday evening but this week we split the sexes. The women stayed there and the men went to a proper pub with a theme for our discussions of ‘success’ (great tag team from Bomba and Dave using CVM’s excellent Codelife resources).

One of the things we were doing was talking about aspirations and I really struggled to vocalise mine. Out of character. Not good.

2b. Carl Haggerty

One of the reasons I’m such a fan of Twitter is the excellent people it connects you with. Carl is one of those excellent people and on Wednesday afternoon he posted ‘What motivates you, I mean really motivates you’ on his blog.

I didn’t see it until today but there was a significant overlap between what he wrote and some of the things Bomba and Dave had spoken about last night in terms of understanding our ambitions and our criteria for success in light of our faith. Good food for thought, especially if you’re thinking about the here and now let alone the future.

3. ‘praise God for placing us where we’re placed’

When I got to church I bumped into a couple of guys who were unfortunate enough to have me unload my word related head-space onto them (they asked the wrong questions). Poor them.

Sometimes there’s a disconnect in the life of a church between those involved with the ministry of the church and those of us who do jobs in the murky ‘secular’ world. Not tonight. Tonight there was a chunk of the evening devoted to us.

I wasn’t over the moon, I didn’t want to come home and dwell on how I felt about work if at all possible (and yet I’d had to do that on Wednesday as well).

We spent a chunk of time in personal prayer but I didn’t want to talk about it with God so my mind wandered. When we broke into small groups it was easier, praying for the needs of others people always is.

And that meant I was being prayed for too. Because prayer is effective, this is always dangerous. And it had an incredible effect. As much as I might want to do something else I am where I am. If I don’t celebrate that then I am on a hiding to nothing.

4. Restore

Homelessness is something that’s been on my heart for ages. Those men and women sat on the sides of our streets are often hurried past. Very rarely do people stop, make eye contact and treat them like actual people even if it is to say “no, I’m not going to give you any money”.

In the 8 years I’ve been in York I’ve got to know a few of the homeless community. Five years ago a friend of mine shared his dream for providing actual homes for the homeless, somewhere to call their own and supporting them relationally there.

He’s been working with the homeless since he left university and it’s five years later and now there’s a group of people from churches across York whose vision is to solve homelessness. There are 400 people on the at risk of or homeless. They’re going to buy houses and create homes for them. It’s an incredible goal. It’s the fulfilment of that dream.

It has required patience.

5. My words

And it was that word, patience, which leapt into my head as I sat rejoicing in their love for the unloved.

And I remembered a blog I’d written two years ago. It came almost from the same place as where I am at the moment! ‘Inertia, or the noble art of waiting on God‘ is long but seems to contain wisdom. Not a great deal has changed, I’m still would-be impetuous, I’m still torn between two places, I’m still frustrated to be so far removed from the public. But equally, I can’t fault my conclusions from then…

I can’t hack it sometimes. I fear that all this explaining away of waiting is simply an excuse for inertia, a reason not to do something, a justification for prayer not action yet all the time the world is crying out to know its Saviour. I worry that I’ll wind up in 50 years having sat on the sidelines taking each experience and ‘learning’ from it but completely missing the point in what God is saying.

But maybe that’s what waiting for God is all about. Moses had to be well and truly broken before he was blessed; Abraham was an old man but God told him he’d father a great nation beloved of the Lord; Joseph had a dream as a boy but it wasn’t for years and years that it was fulfilled.

I’ve realised something as I’ve written this. I’ve thought of this as inertia, and that really means I don’t trust God to come through for me. It means I reckon things are slipping away without my control and that surely, something different to this would serve Him better. Waiting on God means that you know that God knows best. It means that you trust him to take you by the hand because he knows where you’re going. He’s drawn the map, and he’s not going to fast track you along shortcuts because he knows the snickleways. The journey might be slower but taking that route is much more enriching.

Kick back, enjoy, I’ve got all of eternity with Him, for now Lord grant me patience to wait on you, to seek you and to serve you where I am.

It’s very annoying when God uses your younger self to give you a kick up the arse.

Words are powerful, I used the words stagnant and lost. I bought into that. That was a stupid thing to do. I am neither of those things.

Now, this evening didn’t change my working circumstances. It hasn’t answered the question of whether I could be more effective doing something else somewhere else. It hasn’t grappled with the ridiculous and expensive commutes in opposite directions Christine and I are about to start.

I might think it’s time for a new challenge, I certainly did earlier this week but I’m going to be confident in letting go and letting God be in control. I might have lost sight of what I knew 2 years ago but hopefully this time it will stick.

It’s good to be back seeing the blue skies and not the clouds. What’s next? Bring it on.

About Benjamin Welby

Hi, I'm Benjamin Welby. I'm a displaced northerner currently living in Croydon, I church with a group of Christians who meet in a Soho nightclub on Wednesdays and I support Bradford City. I've an academic background in History, Politics and International Development. I work for the Government Digital Service but I left my heart in local government. This blog is infrequently updated and may feature any, all or none of these things...

  • Carl Haggerty

    Hi Ben,

    Thank you for your kind words. Whatsver does happen, I know that the social web will keep good people connected.