Next Steps

I have been in the house or garden a lot since the start of self-isolation and lock down. Yesterday I needed to take the car for a drive and decided that I’d drive down to the lifeguard station at Burbo Bank so that I’d get a view of the sea.

On the journey I noticed a few differences from when I’d last driven from Hightown along the back road. The fields were no longer flooded and instead looked vibrant and green, the trees were no longer bare but had a cover of leaves. The hedges haven’t been cut this year, which is good for birds and wildlife but not so good for those of us who want to see over into the fields themselves seeking out partridges and pheasants.

Seasons move on and nature continues to grow and change with each season and we can’t stop it, even if we wanted to.

As I drove along Hall Road I could see that a sea mist had come in with the tide and so I could see nothing but a grey wall of cloud. The sea, the statues and the view across to Wirral and North Wales was hidden from sight.

Some years ago I was in Shetland with a friend and we decided to walk to the very northern most point of the British Isles; well not quite as there is no access to Muckle Flugga, the actual most northerly point. The furthest north it is possible to go is to Hermaness nature reserve. A wild, windy and cold place even in the middle of June but a haven for seabirds to breed and nest. The cliffs are spectacular and a little frightening but the long, and at times difficult walk was worth it. We were at the top of … well, Britain if not the world, looking over the sea to the now automated lighthouse standing just off shore on Muckle Flugga.

What a feast for the senses it was standing there on the cliff tops. The white waves crashing in to the cliffs below, the cliffs themselves stained white where the sea birds nest every year. Gannets glide past, searching the waves relentlessly, and then diving into the water at breakneck speeds. Puffins waddle from their clifftop burrows and because people are not so common there they happily walked across my feet having a little nibble of my boots. Away from the bustle of the cliffs, great skuas and red throated divers nest in the open moorland, the skuas diving at us to scare us away from their nests or young. I was lost in it all.

My idea of heaven.

It was only as we turned round, away from the view that we noticed that mist had rolled in over the moors and the wooden posts which would lead us back to the small car park were hidden from view.

After a moment’s panic we decided to set off in what we hoped was the right direction and, praying quietly to myself while we walked, we quickly came across the first post. From there we just made out the second post and again set off. It was slow progress with the worry of stepping off in to bog, tripping up and breaking an ankle, being lost in the mist forever! There were tears at times. From each post we could see the next but no further; but we only needed to be able to see the next one. After a couple of hours walking across the moorland we arrived at the car, wet, relieved and safe, but also very happy to have seen those cliffs and the birds, to have had a close encounter with puffins and skuas.

I used to wish I knew what the end to my story would be. How was it all going to work out? If I followed this path would it end well?

I came to realise that God doesn’t work like that. He leads us one step at a time. It’s a bit like those posts out on the moorlands in Shetland; God shows us the next step and when we are ready or need the one after he’ll show us that too.

Think about the Apostle Paul.

The day he met Jesus on the road to Damascus he asked, “What shall I do, Lord?” And the answer was, “Arise and go on into Damascus; and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.”

So he obeyed that command and took that one step to Damascus, and there God told him the general direction his life would take. He would be Christ’s witness to all men of what he had seen and heard.

But after that broad overview of God’s plan for his future, the details came one step at a time. For example, three years after his conversion he went up to Jerusalem to meet the apostles. While he was there, he went into the Temple to pray and God spoke to him again: “Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about me.”

Leaving made no sense at all to Paul. Everyone there knew how he had previously persecuted the Christians. Certainly they would believe that something supernatural had happened in his life and would accept his testimony. He tried to reason with God, but to no avail. The word came again: “Go, I will send you far away to the Gentiles.” So Paul took the next step in God’s plan without any specific knowledge of where it would lead him, except that it would be to the Gentile world.

Whenever Paul needed direction, God was right there to provide it. He was never late. When the questions arose, the answers came—just when they were needed.

It’s the same for us.

Jane