Life in a holding pattern

When you fly into Heathrow airport, particularly on one of the first flights of the day, you will often hear an unscheduled message from the captain just before landing. Over the tannoy they will explain that things on the ground are very busy and so you’ve been asked to circle the skies above the airport until a space can be found for you to finish your journey. And so, having completed ninety five percent of your flight, you drift in a loop for a while, waiting for the powers that be to grant you permission to land and continue with your plans for the day.

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When that’s happened to me I’ve usually been on my way to a meeting, and so as time goes by I start to look at my watch, wondering how long the delay will be, if my plans will be knocked off course and how I’ll adjust as a result.

In recent years I’ve interviewed numerous participants who wish to go on overseas trips with the organisation I work for. One of the questions we ask them is ‘how do you respond when plans change at the last minute?’ Some of them have great examples whereas others struggle to think of a time when that’s happened to them in any significant way. It’s one of the questions I find myself wondering what I might say if it was asked of me.

Now I know.

Until a few days ago my husband and I were making plans to leave the country, to serve God in Jamaica for at least the next two years. When I say making plans, I mean we had rented out our house, moved in with my in laws and I was on the brink of handing in my notice. We were ninety five percent of the way there.

And now we’re not going.

Things within our sending organisation had changed in recent times which led us to some big conversations with them, and this is the result.

The last few days have been a jumble of emotions. There have been tears and there are questions. Oh so many questions – and no immediate answers. It feels like we are still circling the skies above where we thought we were going, scratching our heads and wondering if we’ll ever land there. Are we being turned back to where we’ve come from? Is there a destination or timeframe that we can’t yet see?

So here we are. Strapped into our seats but circling. Waiting for an update from the captain.

The list of things that I don’t know right now is significant. I feel disorientated and lost.

And so I will remind myself of what I do know.

God is good.

He will never leave us or forsake us.

He is before all things and in him all things hold together.

It’s a short list, but significant. It’s what we hold on to as we wait.

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