“Hope in a Desert Place” (Part 5) – “God Never Lets Us Go” by Steven Hilton
I may well be the only ordinand in the Church of England who took a 14-year sabbatical between their first and second years of training. I’m rather pleased actually – I needed it!
If I cast my mind back to Westcott House, a fond memory (I hope it is an accurate memory…) is of witnessing the newly recast House bell being baptised. Inscribed on it in now slightly-faded red is this verse – in Greek – from S. Paul’s first letter to the Church in Thessalonica.
In 2010, when I had come to the conclusion that I rather enjoyed life outside the cloister and wouldn’t be going back, my friends and I discussed what tattoo might mark this very personal decision. And like many personal decisions, it was a heady cocktail of one part bitterness, one part joy and one part hope (in what, I wasn’t clear).
I knew immediately, as if inspired from on high, what tattoo I needed, what tattoo I craved. Across my shoulders, written in Greek (about the only New Testament Greek I can recite well…), is this verse from 1 Thessalonians.
Now given its location, I don’t see the tattoo very often. Sometimes in the mirror, or on holiday when we are in and out of the sea, or having a drink with friends as the sun sets.
Perhaps someone we don’t know will ask, ‘what does that say?’ And I have to try and navigate a simple way into a complex story which, back then, was about not quite being able to let go or – as I now know– God refusing to let me go.
Dear Reader, don’t believe everything you read. The ‘wilderness’ – time away, time apart, time escaped – is never wasted. It can even be enjoyable, holy and wholesome.
Find your wilderness, today. Let God search you out. And let God find you.
Listen for the call of the Faithful One, just around the next corner.
Lord God, we praise you because you don’t wait until we are ready to be called but call us anyway. Make us loyal to the calling you have placed on our hearts, this day and always. In the name of Jesus, we pray.