When Simon shared last week with beautiful vulnerability it reminded me of my first experience of a Rural Ministries conference. It was at Cliff College in the beautiful peak district being challenged by the concept of Christian coaching. I was nervous because Simon had asked me to lead morning prayers. Simon led it beautifully the first day, and I was utterly shocked that he had a). used the exact passage that I was going to reflect on and b). had stolen all my key points! So, while others at the conference went bowling, I decided to have a look at the Monsal trail, hoping that God would give me something inspirational for the next morning. The trail runs along the former midland railway line for 8.5 miles between Blackwell Mill, in Chee Dale and Coombs Road, at Bakewell. Most of the route had been opened in 1981 but it was not until 2011 and a few million quid had been spent that four railway tunnels each about 400 metres long were also open for trail walkers, cyclists and horses and their riders. It was with this knowledge I headed down to Headstone Tunnel.
After beginning the walk through – the tunnel is so big that there are parts where there is literally no light at either end of the tunnel. It feels eerie to say the least - it feels like the tunnels closing in on you - you feel trapped – the atmosphere is different – breathing is a little tougher – its dark – imprisoned – utterly alone. It’s a difficult place. Who is it we know who feels like this? Who feels like there is no hope – no escape – no life in all its fulness? We stop and pray for them…
After a while some chitter chatter broke into the silence and I realised that I was being joined on my trip through the tunnel. I did not walk with them – I did not converse with them (except to say a very British ‘good afternoon’). But just having them present took away so much of what I was feeling. There was still no light at the end of the tunnel – it was still dark and damp – but there were others there. It felt better. I was no longer alone. And as we pray for those who come to mind in the tunnel we ask, how can we be present with them there? Missionaries we supported in my previous church serving in Nepal told the story of a taxi ride shortly after the earthquake that rocked the nation. The taxi driver asked them, “when are you going home”? “We are home”, came the reply, “this is where we live, this is home, in happy times but also in the more difficult”. The taxi driver was surprised, his experience had been that so many missionaries and western workers were returning home whilst it was unsafe. But it was being present with this wonderful country going through its most difficult time that they had so many conversations about God. More than they ever did before. By being present, Nepal wasn’t alone.
As a travelled further down the tunnel the magnificent image, light at the end of the tunnel! Hope!
Now that’s what comes when we invite God to come near. Hope. So, if you find yourself in the tunnel, or present with someone there, why not ask God to come near? Because God brings strength for today and hope for tomorrow.
So, we find ourselves in the tunnel – ourselves or present with others and we are asking God to come near.
I was excited leaving the tunnel for the view over the peak District. I was a little disappointed!
It was nice to be out the tunnel, but I still could not see clearly. How many of us go through life like this? Not in dark places but not fully appreciating life? Looking but not seeing? hearing but not listening? Alive but not living or living but not in all its fulness? Sometimes it is easier to ask for help when we are in dark places, the issues are often rather obvious. But who is walking with us and who are we walking with to remove the obstructions and to help each other become all that we can be? Who is walking us from life to life in all its fulness? Who is helping us grow deeper into God. Who is walking with us as we learn to love Him, and neighbour as self? Perhaps pause and pray about this now.
Because it’s worth it you know! Just look at what was waiting to come into view…
Whoever you are and wherever you are on the journey may you know loving people alongside you present on your journey helping you become all that you can be. May you know God coming near and bringing strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. May you not only live but be fully alive. All this of course is only possible in Jesus name… Amen.