Being Ourselves

Two summers ago, in my previous parish of East Harling, I finally caved in to a long-standing desire – partly as a result of the Parish Council Drop-In at the Village Hall, organised so that new people to the village could find out more about what was going on in the community.

From the Rectory” by David Smith

Our Parish Church had a stand in one corner of the hall, sandwiched between Harling Recreational Bowls Club and East Harling Shotokan Karate Club – perhaps two extremes of leisure pursuit with, understandably, the Church in the middle to mediate.

I’d had a hankering to play bowls ever since I was little: I watched bowls on TV, and I always stopped by and watched outdoor bowls whenever we came across people playing. Up until the Drop-In, however, I’d never actually had a go (time, opportunity, etc). Whilst at East Harling, I’d had the offer of playing a few times but had to turn those chances down. At the Drop-In, two members of the Bowls Club were manning their stand – Chris and Val – and in their own quiet way they weren’t going to let me go this time…! I think it must have been about three times that I loitered near their stand and picked up a wood (bowl) and a jack and chatted about their club, their interest in bowls and also my own unfulfilled interest, and they spoke about their forthcoming Open Day at the Bowls Club, suggesting that I should visit. And so that’s exactly what I did.

Open Day came, and I decided to pop along. I received the most generous, hospitable and warm welcome and the members who were there couldn’t have been more helpful and encouraging as they offered a drink and invited me to the bowls green for a few draws of a wood. From the very first draw I was hooked and I’d well and truly succumbed. Mike, the groundsman, dedicated a good proportion of his afternoon in sun and rain patiently and generously tutoring me up and down the green – correcting some faults and affirming all that was looking promising. I spent a lovely three hours bowling away, chatting and enjoying everyone’s company with a pint and a BBQ and, such was the experience, I signed up as a member not only of my-then village club for outdoor play but also at Wymondham Dell for indoor bowls as well. Soon I’d bought my own set of bowls and all the necessary kit, and members were kind enough to say that they thought I was good enough for league matches, although time prevented my involvement.

Having since moved to Geldeston, I’m now waiting for the chance to get back playing again and especially looking forward to joining a new local club and all the opportunities that will bring to make new friends and simply ‘be’, away from the demands of ministry for a bit.

You can “follow your dreams”

When I think back through my own life journey and consider those of my friends and other people who I’ve had the opportunity to listen to – whether in person or through books or the media – I’ve come to realise that it really can be possible to follow one’s dreams; to be who you wish to be or to have the chance of doing what one deep down wants to do. There are many moments in life, however, when such possibility seems “pie in the sky” and there are many reasons why we may not be able to be x or do y at a certain time in our lives, mainly through a myriad of different commitments, responsibilities or other constraints – financial, social, familial, etc.

As a Christian, I believe that God loves us, knows everything about us and knows his will for each of us. At the right time, in the right place, amongst the right people, God may place an opportunity before us to discern and then either to explore or reject. I realise as I look back through my life, those things which have given me the greatest fulfilment in leisure and in work have been present as small seeds of even the most fleeting interest from early on, even in my early childhood. I can now look back and join the dots to those first stirrings and I’ve come to realise that these seeds have come to grow and then blossom at the right time – in some cases it’s been many years in the offing, with much ‘up and down’ in between, where the ‘downs’ may have meant that the possibility of fulfilment seemed another world away. Those moments helped to prepare me for when the time was indeed right at last.

God stirs in us the right desires at the right time. Where our desires are good, wholesome, ‘fit’ us and they converge with the will of God, then opportunity tends to come along. It is merely for us to respond positively to that chance; these are the times not to be cynical or dismissive of such opportunities (“Too good to be true”, “Nice things never happen to me”, “I’d never be good at it”, “I won’t do it yet”). God not only gives us the right time and right place, but also the right attitude and right gifting. You will be surprised who you can be and what you can do when you step out in faith with God, trusting in his love and grace to uphold you.

I remember having a conversation with a Christian friend at my former accountancy office who had always wanted to be a landscape gardener but had never felt bold enough to train, feeling that she was too old and perhaps destined to stay at her desk. I encouraged her to pray, explore her desire and research the possibilities. Six months afterwards, she had resigned to begin a landscaping course – her circumstances ‘coincidentally’ opening up the chance – and she’s now a professional landscaper and gardener with a wide and very grateful client base.

Wherever we are in our life, God always simply wants us to be ‘us’ and always has something in store for us to do, however straightforward it may seem, but it will always be Kingdom-enabling. Whatever your circumstance, do not dismiss your deepest longing. It may be God’s gentle tap on your shoulder (again).

David Smith

Rector, Waveney Marshlands Benefice