About two weeks ago we moved house. We said goodbye to the area we’d lived in for over thirty years (apart from a spell abroad), put the cat in a cattery, allowed ourselves to be packed into 120 boxes and drove away from London to the country. It was surreal.
I clung to the steering wheel all the way there. Not because I was emotional (I’d done all that, about six months-worth) but because I was terrified. I hadn’t driven long-distance on my own for about twenty years. I’d done practice runs of course, my husband white knuckled and shaking in the passenger seat beside me, but not a solo drive. But it was moving day. We had two cars. I had no choice. I prayed…
It was a pale morning, birds rising, sky the colour of curd. A timid rain whimpered thinly across the windscreen while the motorway threw up spray and lorries thundered past. I ignored them and kept repeating to myself, like a mantra, “After the Reigate exit, pull in quickly. Don’t forget… Reigate. It comes up quickly, after Reigate.” I was in front, my husband behind. Every time I thought I should pull out – for a slip road, for a lorry, for an idiot – I’d look in the mirror, indicate, check the lanes around me and go. And he’d follow. Once or twice, particularly when I forgot about Reigate (due to a motorbike in the inner lane with a side-car. On the motorway! Was that actually allowed?!), he’d pull out first and hang back waiting for me, like a sheep dog. He’d got my back. This gave me time to check my mirror, indicate, have a last look round and pull out in front of him. That time, I accelerated bravely to get past a lorry and pull in, just in time for the M23.
We’d practised which lane to come off in, how to swing round when the motorways merge, which landmarks to look for when coming off. We swept off towards East Grinstead, tossing our manes and looked for the lane through the villages. The rain had cleared, the sky softened, and suddenly the ground dropped away and there was the most beautiful view across fields and hills. I felt a burst of delight. I was doing it! I was moving to the country! And I was driving there myself…
Every time we take a risk, every time we step out of our comfort zone to attempt something difficult or challenging because we believe he’s told us to, I think God smiles. I think he throws his head back and chuckles with pleasure and rocks back and forth, rubbing his hands with glee. Why? Because He knows each step, however small or faltering, takes us a bit closer towards where he needs us to be – dependent on him. Then he can use us.
This is true of writing as well as life. Sometimes we end up writing different things to the ones we thought we would. An opportunity arises, a door opens, a stranger beckons. And there’s a part of us that doesn’t want to go. It’s a bit inconvenient. It’s not what we had in mind. Yet, there is a gnawing uncertainty with the status quo, a restlessness. A snatch of music, a lingering dream. The feeling will not go away. We push the door; it begins to open. We push again. It swings wide. Will we go?
On my birthday last year, just before the whole ‘moving idea’ became a thing, God gave me a book called “All the places to Go”. It practically fell off the shelf into my waiting hands in a Christian bookshop in London. The author, John Ortberg, talks about the open doors that God places in front of us every day of our lives. Every morning is an open door, every moment can become one – will we seize them and allow our lives to become a divine adventure? It might not mean moving to the country. But it might mean doing something, in your road, in your friendships, in your writing, that makes your heart race a little with excitement and fear.
Whatever you are facing at the moment, in writing or life, the God of the open door is with you. It might not make the step he’s calling you to make any easier but it will mean he’ll be there with you. Reminding you to go this way or that one, pulling out behind you.
He’s got your back.
Click on the link to see the novella on amazon Deborah Jenkins is a primary school teacher and freelance writer who has written articles, text books, devotional notes and short stories. She also writes regularly for the TES. She has completed a novella, The Evenness of Things, available as an Amazon e-book and is currently working on a full length novel. Deborah loves hats, trees and small children. After years overseas with her family, who are now grown up, she lives in East Sussex with her husband, a Baptist minister, and a cat called Oliver.