Search Out the Ancient Path - Jordan Betts
A new job, new house, new city, new church, new lifestyle, and a new baby all at the same time whilst emerging from a pandemic. It was sure to be a challenge and God was sure to be slap bang in the middle of it all. This has been the past few months for me and Eleanor and our new family member Noah. They say you should only do one big life change at a time. I think I did them all apart from marriage….. a new baby, job, house, and city, PHEW!, and yet in these past few months through the craziness I have experienced the presence of the Lord in ways I could not imagine.
The Fathers heart has been revealed through the welcome we have received from our new church family. When Noah came we were bowled over by nearly three weeks’ worth of meals (and nearly as many pounds put on in that time). A group of people who hardly knew us gave so generously to us. In 1 John it says that all good gifts come down from the Father of lights with who there is no shift and shade.’ We have certainly seen some of these gifts since joining Wadsley, particularly the welcome and love from you - his Children which certainly reflects of our Father’s heart. I have learnt through your support and welcome the truth of the words in Matthew 7:
‘Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? So, if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!’
The Father is trustworthy to give us good things, to give us what we need, when we need it. In a time of great change, upheaval, unknowns, pressure and excitement, Eleanor and I have seen Gods good hand guiding us and leading us - we have certainly looked for it and needed it! The transitional time of these past few months has been relatively smooth, we have felt super supported and welcomed by church family and these have been real gifts which have made our settling in much easier. That got me to thinking of how much bigger God is than my view current of him, he is much kinder and more faithful than I could imagine.
Our Father likes to give us good gifts, his nature is always to bless first, he is a good father and in Ephesians 3:20 it says that ‘God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ask think or imagine according to the power at work within us.’ The vision we have of him; of how much he values us; of what he wants to do with us and through us and with his world, is far beyond all we can think of. Gods ‘more’ has been reflected to us through the simple gestures of moving in help, numerous tip runs (with the copious mountains of cardboard accumulated in a move), down to the meal train organised from church family; all these things reinforced the truth of the Father’s goodness and the way Holy Spirit works in the Children of God to reflect his nature. It has made our transition to Sheffield, curacy, and parenthood so much easier and more fruitful. Thank-you so much for your welcome.
This got me to thinking, as we emerge from this Pandemic and as I join an existing church on an existing journey, we have a unique opportunity in that we stand at a significant crossroad. What do we do from here? Although I am joining an existing family; a family that knows one another and has an identity; that family’s business has undergone massive change. The activity of the church pre-pandemic cannot be the same as it was in-pandemic, and it certainly can’t be post-pandemic. In one sense I’m not the only person in the church new to her activity; we all are! As we stand at the beginning of a new school year, church year, and glance over the precipice into our new lockdown-free season, I believe our Father is inviting us to ask him for what is next – he has certainly given me this invitation. For me as a person who likes to ‘crack on’, who likes to know what he’s doing, this is a profound challenge.
Jeremiah 6:16 says ‘This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls…”. As with Jeremiah so with us, we have an invitation to ask the Lord for good things and that can take the form of direction.
These verses cut to the marrow of what I have felt God posture me towards at the start of my time at Wadsley. It is a call to wait, look and ask for where to go and what to do as I begin this new season. God tells us to ask Him for the ancient paths, it is an interesting turn of phrase, what does an ancient path look like? An ancient path can look like a lost, overgrown, veiled game-trail, and other times it can look like a modern, clean, and smooth highway. Watling street is a road which runs across England, it starts in Kent and stretches to the western edge in Shropshire, most of it is now a tarmacked modern road which makes up most of the A2 and the A5, this road though is an ancient path which dates back to the Roman times. Like Watling Street, sometimes the paths God has us on are unexpectedly ancient and significant but yet seemingly mundane and normal. Wherever the direction God points us in, let us not judge it by its surface appearance for there is always more life in that route than we could ever imagine and experience from another.
Often the paths God asks us to walk on; directs us in, are the ones which make little sense to us, they can seem almost imperceptible or really obvious but either way they have much deeper meaning than we realise. I have seen this time and again in my life, he has given me good things when I’ve asked him, his paths have led me to realise he can do immeasurably more than I even asked him to do, and it has certainly been the same starting a curacy in lockdown and with the imminent arrival of a first child. I have had to trust God to show me the path to take rather than rushing in and assuming a direction he had not set.
When I think about this on a church level, we could return to our old ways of doing things, we could pick up where we left off before lockdown, but that seems dangerous for everything is different from then. We ignore our Fathers instructions and leading at our peril. We have an opportunity to reset and walk on the path of God’s choosing (this may be different from the one he had us on before) rather than our own.
My first few months as curate here have been unexpected, the road walked was not the one I’d have thought, and yet as I follow Jesus’ leading I find it has been the best road I could have taken. Starting at Wadsley I have had a keen impression to take things in, to enjoy the community and to receive the ‘grace’ of the season - which is not working at a million miles an hour from the word ‘go.’ The invitation has been to come with an open heart, to learn and serve and find out what the Father is doing and join in. I sense this is our invitation in this time as a church, as we launch into this new year, let us wait on what the Father wants to do and perceive the working of the Holy Spirit and join in.
We need to ask him for the ancient paths and follow Jesus down them. As we do, I know we will see the good gifts of our heavenly Father and be awed at how much he exceeds all we could possibly ask or imagine. This is the invitation we have been given; this is the invitation I have been given starting a new curacy. So, let’s say yes to the ancient paths, to the unexpected, to creativity and new things that the Lord is leading us into. I know that’s what I’m going to do, the question is, will you?