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markpugh

Rev. Mark Pugh
THE GOSPEL CALLS US TO UNFAMILIAR TERRITORY

The anxiety of giving up the comforts we have always known can hold us back, a lost and confused Mark Pugh found out on his first overseas driving experience

I really wasn’t looking forward to this. Despite having successfully negotiated my way through the UK standard driving test over 20 years ago, my accumulative experience on the road had always had two factors in common. One – the steering wheel had always been on the right hand side of the car. Secondly – the cars had always been driven on the left of the road. As my plane landed in Spain, the rental car was about to place me in very unfamiliar territory.

The vehicle was parked up on the sixth floor of the airport multi-story, and as I loaded my family into the additional seats and squeezed the holiday luggage into the compact boot, a sense of dread came over me in anticipation of the new experience I was about to have.

I adjusted the seat, moved the mirrors, asked the kids to keep the volume down in order to aid my concentration, and began to play with the controls of the stationary vehicle.

I started the engine and tentatively pulled out of the tight space. I needed to follow the exit signs but I wasn’t sure which ones they were. I guessed and found a universally understood pointing arrow, but unfortunately it showed me I was going the wrong direction around this multi-storey one way system. I corrected it and began to obey these signs which led me to a winding descending

‘I indicated as I approached the exit (well, actually I started my wipers again!) and began the journey’ ramp. Embarrassingly, getting onto it involved making a three-point manoeuvre as a result of my unfamiliarity with the phys¬ics of the vehicle. I eventually managed it and descended to the ground floor. Exit barrier ahead and then the open road, but where do I go when on the open road? My sat-nav was resisting coming to terms with being in a different country, and in response had decided to have a siesta. The barrier lifted and I drove forward.

I had no map, didn’t know which road to take, the signs were all in a different language, I was sitting in the ‘wrong’ side of the car, the cars were all on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and every time I tried to indicate, the windscreen wipers started.
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This was all very unfamiliar and disconcerting. Eventually, after nauseatingly circling around a large roundabout numerous times and praying that the sat-nav would wake up from its slumber, with no hint of apology it announced ‘take the third exit’. Relieved to now have direction, I indicated as I approached the exit (well, actually I started my wipers again!) and began the journey to our holiday destination.

It’s amazing how unfamiliarity can impact us. In the short term it often involves some level of stress and mistakes, but in the longer term we grow, we learn, we develop and we go places.
The gospel calls us to unfamiliar territory – it’s how we grow and how the gospel advances, but our anxiety of giving up the comforts of what we have always known can hold us back. We have an ultimate example in our leader, Jesus! He gave up the riches of heaven and came to earth as a baby – it was surely a more disconcerting experience than driving on he opposite side of the road, and he made no mistakes. He lived in perfect obedience to his father in heaven.

Will we grow, develop and go places, or will we ignore Jesus’ example, live comfort¬able lives and avoid change and challenges? For the sake of the world, I hope we will rise up, step out and go.

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