It was no use. I just couldn’t walk any further. Sheltering in the porch of a pub, I called a taxi to take me the remaining half a mile home.
I must be one of the few people who can claim to have been injured in a church service. I loved our Sunday nights, when ten of us shared a communion in which we meditated, shared experiences, and read scriptures. Trouble was, I’d been in the front pew and I’d had to twist my body round to talk to those on the row behind. Somehow or other, as it later emerged, I’d torn my cartilage.
Over the following days, the pain became excruciating. I needed crutches to walk, but because I’d never been to A&E I had to buy a pair. The shop lay on a precinct in Huddersfield town centre. Because I could hardly walk, Jane drove me as close as possible and entered a bus lane overlooked by a camera, for which we later paid handsomely. Talk about adding insult to injury…
As my leg began to recover, I was hit with another blow. I had to withdraw my first ever novel just as it was being published, because it contained a fatal flaw. [The Most Hopeless Case is my second.]
Not long afterwards, one of our children down on the South Coast suffered a serious emergency and needed our help. We took the train down and stayed for about four days. Jane remained there whilst I came back to Yorkshire, looking forward to a bit of solitude. I’d been home less than a day when the phone rang.
“Hello John. This is Linda.”
Linda is my mum’s marvellous neighbour. But every time she calls, my heart skips a beat. Trouble! Mum, 94 at the time, had caught flu. She needed someone to be with her. And so it was that I ended up in Northumberland, the opposite end of the country from Jane. And there I stayed for a week. Someone told me that I’m a member of the ‘sandwich generation’, having both younger family members and an elderly parent, the ‘bread’, needing my support. I’m the middle bit, the ‘meat’. This seemed an excellent description…
So what kept me going during this ordeal? As I drove home from Mum’s, I played a beautiful CD called, ‘Loves Excelling’ that a friend had bought us for Christmas. Over and over again, I played one of the tracks, Matt Redman’s ‘Father’s Song’. The words are based on Zephaniah 3 verse 17 which speaks of God singing over His people.
The Father’s song, the Father’s love
You sung it over me
And for eternity it’s written on my heart
Heaven’s perfect melody, the Creator’s symphony
You are singing over me the Father’s song
As I let these words drizzle into my soul, I experienced in a fresh way a sense of God’s father heart for me. And of His affirmation of me, as my own fatherly love was being stretched to the limit.* I felt tearful, but also knew a deep sense of being upheld in very trying times.
And so, two days later, Jane and I sat together in our lounge, reunited after our trials and looking forward to recuperating after our season of stress. Just then, we heard a rumbling sound above our heads. We’d known something about our bedroom ceiling wasn’t right. Upstairs we trouped, to find that it had collapsed onto the carpet, complete with plaster, insulation and all!
“Have you done anything interesting over the last few weeks?” asked April, my riding instructor, as I celebrated my return to the arena. It took about three laps to explain my hilarious tale of woe.
“Well, I must say, John, you’re the most un-boring person I know!” she teased. Perhaps it was, indeed, a gift to be able to look my various ‘experiences’ in the eye and laugh at them.
[*Matt Redman must have known such a feeling; he recorded the song as he and his wife were expecting their first child.]