So, this Saturday, 4th February 2012, marks the real start of my retraining. It's the first day of the full diploma course in Sports Massage Therapy and I'm looking forward to it with that mixture of excitement and apprehension that goes with anything new. Will I be able to learn all the information at a rate that will get me through the course? Will I be able to develop the practical skills and that I will need? Will I be able to turn it all into a viable business at the end?
All questions that will undoubtedly get answered in the next twelve months or so.
Of course it's also important to remember that I'm not retraining because I've given up ministry or because ministry has given me up. I"m dong it precisely because I'm still passionate about people who are far from God and about the church that God has chosen to carry the news of the greatest hope we can ever have. When I first ventured towards ministry it was because of a sense of the need within the church in the UK to rediscover it's spiritual life in God's hands. As fellow members of an expedition to North Africa were talking about their sense of call to reach the Arab world with the Gospel, I was consumed by an equal passion to see the church in the UK fired up.
I remember a picture that came to mind of a mission worker edging out a long a branch to reach whatever was at the end. I remember the folk sitting by the trunk cheering them on as they went. And I remember too the sense of time passing and the person on the branch fading from both the view and the memory of the those around the trunk. Eventually a decision was made to cut off the branch because it weighed too much and the trunk would be damaged if something wasn't done. No one remembered that there was a person at the other end who needed help and support. So they took a saw and cut off the branch and the worker on the end found themselves falling helplessly to the ground. In that picture I saw the church at home, concerned about itself so much that it lost sight of the wider mission.
Years later, when I read about my Grandfather's time in Gambia, I wondered if he felt that sense of disconnection with home. I wondered if that contributed to his returning home from the mission-field and never being involved in church again. I don't know. I wondered too if he ever prayed for the church in the UK to get its head back in the game and to stop fretting about curtains and policies and just get on with the job of the kingdom.
I was going to tell a story about getting to put into practice a few of the things I've been learning about massage. About how funny it was to be standing around after tennis last night doing a little bit of massage for a friend with a tight muscle. I was very careful not to do what I'm not able to do, but I did what I could and I'll find out next week if it helped or hindered. Hopefully it helped.
But whether I'm a Sports Massage Therapist, a Nutritional Adviser or a Baptist Minister, I will never stop being a follower of Jesus. I may slip and slide, I may make mistakes and I may fail in some people's eyes, but I will commit myself to pursue a simple obedience to the call of God on my life.