As I write this, I’m at Heathrow’s terminal four. The flight to the States is a couple of hours away. I’m checked in and I’m good to go. I’ve even bought a couple of great gifts for the kids of the family that I’m staying with. But I didn’t sleep brilliantly last night. Rosslyn and I stayed up late chatting about some of the issues that are preoccupying us at the moment. And I had to get up early to finish off providing feedback on one of the sermons to be preached in my absence this Sunday. The journey out of SW12 was chaotic and the route the taxi driver took was anarchic. But I’m here now. And in a little over an hour I’ll be off to Detriot and then on to Dallas. But why? Why am I going?
Interestingly that’s not been a question that’s been asked in the Perkins household. Rosslyn knows what difference these sorts of trips make to my mental and spiritual well-being. She just wishes that she could find a way of getting some for herself! But it may be a question others ask. After all, they’re paying my wage and they’d be entitled to seek some sort of justification. They’re expecting me to pray for them, prepare sermons, organise church and equip them for the work of ministry. They don’t pay me to swan off half way round the world on a personal whim. And they have a point.
There are lots of reasons not to go. Here are the three that spring to mind.
First it’s a hassle. It would be easier not to go. It’s always a headache going away. I’ve had to be really organised to fit stuff in and stuff around the time away. I’ve been preoccupied at home as I think through what I’ve needed to do in preparation. I’m useless at making the kinds of decisions required to pack easily and quickly. I get strangely discomforted by travel arrangements and the uncertainty they induce. I absolutely hate leaving the family behind. The kids get fed up with how tightly I squeeze them in the days running up to departure! I don’t have to go. It would be easier not to. But I was asked which was nice. And it’s all being paid for, which is even nicer! But I didn’t have to go. I choose not to do things all the time. So, why not this time? Was the allure of Dallas just too tempting? There’s something in that.
Secondly, it’s a distraction. It’s not as though there isn’t stuff to do at home! Church is pretty busy at the moment. We’ve just completed a week of mission events. We have a new Christianity Explored course starting in a week. There are a few personal care issues flying around. We’re about to talk to the church about our financial plans and hopes for the year ahead. And I’m heading the organisation of Revive, our annual Co-Mission Bible Festival. There’s loads of ministry to be done in the church that pays my wage. So isn’t this trip merely diverting my attention away from the sheep that God has given me to care for? That’s a possibility. But I take holidays and leave the church in the competent hands of others all the time. This isn’t that much different.
Thirdly, it’s an inconvenience. It impacts others and they have to fill in the gaps left by my absence. The Apprentices are preaching at the weekend. And I don’t doubt that they’ll do a great job. Rosie, our Co-Mission Administrator won’t be able to get hold of me if she wants decisions about Revive. Rosslyn has some fairly key discussions and decisions pending at the moment. We have to sort out alternative arrangements to ensure that the kids are cared for. That usually means others stepping up to the plate and collecting them, feeding them and amusing them till Rosslyn gets back from work. It’s not ideal, though it is rare. And to top it all, it’s the Diamond Jubilee weekend. I’m missing our street party, and I’ve wanted one of those for years. Rosslyn and the kids are going to watch the River Pageant and then go to some thing in Hyde Park (I wasn’t paying much attention).
Just three of the reason that came to mind when, sat eating my porridge this morning, I wondered why on earth I’d agreed to go. The people of Christ Church Carrollton may be pleased to learn that I didn’t struggle to think of better reasons to join them!