There is a sheet of paper on my desk in our church office. On it has the words of a truly wonderful Bible Verse taken from Ephesians 3.
20 Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.
I like this verse. I like it because it speaks of a God who can do more than we ask for or imagine. However do I truly 100% believe God can do this? Sometimes. But mostly not, if I am honest. I would like to though! I have often wondered what it would be like to see God do superabundantly more in our lives, cities and nations. I love this verse because deep down it is my hearts deepest desire. I truly long to see this verse play out in my life. Yesterday, Friday March 3rd 2017 was a day like no other.
We were heading to Glasgow to renew my wife’s VISA so she could extend her stay here in the UK. Just this past week I saw a news headline about a woman who was being deported having been in the UK for 27 years married, and with a family of her own. These news stories are not good for my heart so I choose to switch my attention away from them. They can create a false impression of those who work in positions of influence and power especially when in relation to immigration issues. I have learnt over recent months how important it is to not be consumed by negative news and articles on social media. They cause my heart to become worried and lose perspective.
So we set off for Glasgow and arrived there on a very quiet train from Carlisle at 1030. We then made our way via taxi to the immigration centre. I had quite the wrong impression of what it may be like on arrival. It turned out to be a cross between a Premier Inn reception area and my old school sixth form common room but much nicer! We were greeted at the entrance by some friendly Scottish government officials and passed through airport style security. The officials were so kind and were loving on our son Levi. They treated us with great care, love and respect. Quite the departure from what I imagined. We then entered into the open plan ‘sixth form common room’ which was very full of other applicants and other families. We had another member of staff greet us and explain what would happen throughout the coming hours. We then relaxed in the comfortable sofas ready for what would take place.
During the three hour wait, Levi was entertained by a two year old girl called Sophie who shared her teddy bear with him, I changed Levi’s nappy in the very nice bathroom (which he chose to scream his head off in, causing everyone to hear!) but I also read from Luke 10. My reading was The Good Samaritan and in it Jesus describes what it looks like for us to love our neighbour. In the story that Jesus told, there is a Jewish man who is beaten and robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. Two religious men who should have stopped to help didn’t, and the hero of the story turns out to be a Good Samaritan who in the culture of the day would have been despised by the Jewish people.
33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion for him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
As I reflected on this story of Jesus I was thinking of how The Good Samaritan went above and beyond the call of duty. He did the SUPERABUNDUNTLY more. He could have left him at the inn. He didn’t. Every action was an action of ‘even more’ towards this badly hurt Jewish man.
At 3pm we were called to a desk where we met with one of the very kind gentlemen who greeted us on arrival. He handed back all of our paperwork and said that we were all good and had a successful application. We were able to engage in brief informal conversation and more staff members took an interest in Levi, loving on him. He really is a good looking boy! Our time at the immigration centre was three hours but in that time God had shattered all my preconceived and illogical notions that we would be met by stern figures with stern faces who may well have dismissed our application if one of us had only sneezed! Our time at the centre was so very enjoyable relaxing and surpassed all our expectations.
Our time In Glasgow was not yet over. We headed back into Glasgow by taxi where we found my favourite burger place in the whole world which is Five Guys. We just had to go in! I thought the day could not get any better after this. But it did.
It is fair to say that I am a complainer when it comes to the cost of train travel, the trains and their unreliability, and overcrowding in certain places. I certainly worried more about the trains being on time than the VISA process itself. I was being proved right I felt once more when on boarding our ON TIME 1740 train back to Carlisle the luggage racks were proving way too small for Levi’s buggy. Tired and weary, I resorted to propping it up against my seat and settling down for our short ride home. I didn’t want to think anymore!
At that moment the Train manager and a colleague came up to us and the manager said he would help us find more space on the train. He led me off the train towards the front with me holding Levi. I had no idea where I was going. He stopped at the First Class coach, opened the door and said “I’m in charge. I can help whoever I choose. Please, come and sit in here”. I was stunned. Stephanie was still trying to catch up with all the other luggage and with the other Virgin Trains staff member. She arrived in First Class a few moments later and we just slumped into our seats overwhelmed and in amazement at our treatment. Everything was so First class! The seats, the food menu. I had always felt that those folk I see in First Class imagine themselves to be the best of the best. They are the successfully rich ones and we are, just the other ones. Before Stephanie and I could even utter a word to one another, the train manager came back with a load of food for us to enjoy. ” This is for you. I know what it is like travelling with small children”. That was enough to make Stephanie and myself overly emotional. It had been quite a day. We were so undeserving of this five star treatment and I wondered what the other family with children thought way back in the standard coach we left behind.
Stephanie, Levi and I happily spent the 1hour 20 minutes train ride back to Carlisle, so in awe of the many blessings we had received on the day. The fact that the day just got better and better as it went along. The VISA was enough. That was all I asked God for. Nothing else. He came through for us and I felt like he was saying ” I am not even done blessing you today. I love you!”
As we left the train we got talking to the manager once again who spent the journey a few rows down in First Class, probably wanting to keep an eye on us(!). He told us he had a little daughter and understood how we felt. He wanted to help us. We thanked him once again. We walked home in the pouring rain from the station but that didn’t matter one bit. Friday 3rd March 2017 was a day when God took what I hoped that he would do for us as a family and made it so much better. I got home with a new understanding of God’s love for me and my family. To him we are deserving of First Class treatment. We are his children and he loves us so much. He wants to bless us more than we can imagine.
This verse on my desk at work took on new meaning on Friday March 3rd. This verse came to life and it became a living reality. Looking back I hope that I am someone who can do the even more for someone else, but also that I will be more expectant of seeing God do more. I have seen it in my life with my church family funding my ministry role year on year. With a church family numbering just 10% of what my home church in Essex does, the generosity and provision is even more mind-blowing. I must now trust that God will show his love and generosity through me to those I meet more and more. I have experienced THE GOOD, THE GREAT AND THE EVEN GREATER of God and what he longs to do for me and he is not done yet.