Our previous vicar used to tell an apocryphal tale about a little girl lost in town. A policeman put her into his car and drove her around the neighbourhood, asking her if any of the houses they passed were hers. She didn’t recognise any, until, suddenly, she exclaimed, “That’s my church. I can find my way from here.”
Two weeks ago, on my way home from work, I discovered that the A12, the arterial road through Essex, was gridlocked. Again. Just before I was sucked down the slip-road and into the jam, I spotted a narrow country lane and dived down it. Not on my home patch, I toddled along country lanes for some time, with no clear idea of where I was, until I spotted a sign reading ‘Earls Colne, 7 miles’. In huge relief, I swung into it, even though Earls Colne is not where I live, but where I worship, and, like the little girl, I can find my way home from my church.
Of course, that sermon was about more than people being physically lost. We need God’s satnav, not just when we lose our way in meandering country lanes, but when we deliberately take the plunge into something new and challenging. This time last year, in Wetherspoons in Marylebone, the then ACW Chairman, Philip Davies, and Vice Chair, Marion Osgood, met this unknown and nervous woman, who hadn’t attended any Writers’ Days or published a proper book, and recommended her – me, that is - to the Committee, as ACW Competitions Manager. I’m so glad they did. I bet they prayed about it lots, as I have done, at that time and, ongoing, as I’m carrying out the role.
Fast forward twelve months. I’m being told by the editor of an audible magazine for blind and partially-sighted people, to whom I’ve subbed, that, yes, they want my story, and, by the way, they like authors to read their work on air. That’s me, Dear Reader, who’s so shy about her writing she can’t even share her work with her family and face-to-face friends. But I go to the recording session, to sit in this tiny room, with a bloke wearing headphones behind a mixing desk and these other contributors, all blasé as anything because they’ve done it many times before. There I am, rigid in my chair, listening to the banter, to travel articles, and gardening tips, literally quaking and praying “Don’t let me gabble, Lord. Or stumble. Or drop my pages.” But, when my turn came, I immediately got inside my story, and forgot to be nervous.
On 23 June, our country took a leap into the unknown. Today, we welcome a new prime minister, a vicar’s daughter, photographed attending church with her husband last Sunday. I’m sure that, on 22 June, she never expected God’s satnav to lead her into 10 Downing Street two and half weeks later. Let’s all pray for Mrs Theresa May.
I hope all readers know about our ACW/Street Pastors ‘Today’s Good Samaritans’ comp. For those of you who don’t enter comps, this is your challenge. Just one thousand words - fiction or non-fiction - about someone putting the Christian ethos into action. Only £3 to enter. The first prize is £40 and possible publication in Christian Writer (subject to editor’s approval). For more information, visit http://www.christianwriters.org.uk/competitions.
Rosemary Johnson, writing under the pen-name Charlie Britten, has had short stories published in The Copperfield Review, Circa, Mslexia and Every Day Fiction. She enters lots of competitions in the hope of being published again and again. In real life, she teaches IT and lives with her husband and cat in Esssex.