At the end of my previous blog, From America to... Reading? (which makes for excellent reading, though I say so myself), I shared a bit about our journey since waving farewell to cold Kansas City and arriving back in sunny England just in time for lockdown. At the time of writing, nine months ago, we had amazing stories of God's faithfulness and provision, but we also had many questions keeping them company.
You've probably been on walks/cycles/drives where you take a road, intending to then take the next left turn, only to find there is no left turn, and instead the road just continues in a distinctly non-left direction as far as the eye can see. There comes that moment when, as you're venturing deeper down this unknown path, you start to question the wisdom in what you're doing. Do you play it safe and turn around now, in case there's no left turn for another hundred miles? Or do you bravely (or foolishly) keep going, stubbornly refusing to admit defeat in the hope that surely there must be a turning soon?
This describes our journey through this last season pretty accurately. By following God to Israel and America, we had begun to travel down a road that felt uncertain and unfamiliar. The left turn we had been expecting after America was nowhere to be seen, and for us the months that followed our return to the UK marked that period of time where you have to decide whether to keep going or turn back. The thought of turning back and abandoning this crazy journey of faith started to become very attractive, and every forward step we took felt more and more foolhardy by the day. It was an uncomfortable time, but convinced that God had not led us to Israel and America just to abandon us in Reading, we pressed on, trusting that somewhere along the way we would find the turning we had been waiting for.
Writing this blog nearly a year and a half later, it's incredible to look back and see God's goodness to us in this last season. Though there was no trumpet blast from heaven telling us what to do, God was decidedly not silent or absent. We received lots of small encouragements along the way, signposts assuring us we weren't lost and many unexpected kindnesses from passing strangers. I remember how, nearly a year ago, we were driving to a nearby folly to take some photos for our website. This was a big step for us - these photos would set the tone for our 'Songs of the Watchmen' project and would be a huge part of our website and fundraising campaign. We happened to be listening to Classic FM, and as we neared our destination we were amazed and heartened as the host revealed the name of the piece we'd just been listening to: 'The Watchmen'.
Another such encouragement came, extremely randomly, through the birth of a friend's baby. God highlighted a specific date to me, weeks in advance, and I became utterly convinced that something would happen on that day to serve as a reminder that God is with us. At the front of my mind was a clear prophetic word God had given us about Him birthing something in us - particularly the album. Well, the date came, and in the evening we were called in to be emergency babysitters for two friends of ours who were expecting - albeit not for another few weeks. Well, it turns out God is a lot better at predicting birthdays than doctors are. Right on cue, this baby showed up on the exact date God had given me weeks before. We were left in no doubt that God was with us, and it greatly encouraged us in our belief that we were indeed going through a 'birthing' season of our own. As if to emphasise this further, several months later, on the very day we finished recording the album, another baby entered the world - our first little nephew.
The way God provided for us in this time was incredible – again and again, just as our fuel gauge was flashing empty, we would find a can of petrol lying around the corner. We would gratefully fill up, with no choice but to keep going and trust that another would appear when this one ran out. One example of God's extraordinary provision, obvious though still worth saying, is the album fundraiser. Neither of us had ever done anything like this before, but certain it was the right thing to do, we set out to raise £7000. Over the course of the next few months we did exactly that, and more - we were blown away at God's generosity expressed through close friends and even complete strangers. He was indeed leading and guiding us, and though this left-hand turn still remained elusive, there was more than enough evidence to believe that we would find it in God's perfect timing.
As for what this mysterious left-hand turn was, in truth we really had no idea. If you’d have asked us, we’d have probably listed ten things that it could be, with no certainty at all that it would be any of things. Reflecting on it now, I think what we were really looking for was purpose in the midst of our uncertainty. The way God had led us to Israel and America had been so direct and so intentional, to us it was impossible not to believe it was unto something. There had to be a point to it, a reason why God had led us the way He did – if not, why were we still travelling down this road? Whether we quite realised this at the time I don’t know, but really the left-hand turn we were seeking wasn’t so much a specific thing; it was affirmation that our journey thus far had not been in vain, and that God was still invested in the promises He had made to us.
One of the clearest and biggest signposts along the way had been our album. Having this project had sustained us and given us vision, especially so given the way God had encouraged us as we went after it. You can appreciate, therefore, as we neared the album launch on the 2nd July, our sense of intrigue and puzzlement concerning what lay beyond. We were determined that we wanted to keep pursuing ministry and music, but highly unsure as to what that would look like and how it could support us going forward. Then all of a sudden, everything changed in a way we could not possibly have expected or prepared for. A job vacancy was brought to our attention - worship pastor at Greyfriars Church - and several friends of ours were encouraging us to go for it. It was a curveball to say the least, but the more we prayed about it, and the more we thought about it, the more exciting a proposition it became. Getting it on a job-share basis would mean we could do more of what we love - making music, worshipping and discipling - all the while continuing to put time into the album and our wider ministry. Surrendered to God's will, but nonetheless excited at the prospect of taking on this job, we applied. A wedding, a funeral and a job interview later, we became worship pastors at Greyfriars.
We had found our hidden path. In all honesty, I suspect that this hidden path is really the same path we were on - but I won't emphasise that point as I feel I've already stretched this metaphor quite a lot. The important thing is that just when it looked like we'd come all this way for nothing, God came through. He had known this path was there all along, and He had led us so well through our doubts and through our hesitations. I daresay this is not the last chapter of this story - in fact, I'm starting to get the feeling that this particular story has only just started - but it is a chapter that for the rest of our lives will serve as a reminder to us of God's extraordinary goodness and faithfulness.