Dragon Riders and Sea Captains

I listen to a lot of audio books.

Maybe it’s because I tend to walk or take public transport to work, or maybe it’s because I tend to be a slow reader, or perhaps it’s because I’m a high-audio learner. But in any case, audio books are a non-guilty pleasure for me, and I’ve listened to a ton of them over the past eight years that we’ve been in Mongolia. I’ve listened to everything from Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (AWESOME book to listen to. It’s narrated by Simon Prebble, who is one of the best narrator of audio books that I know of) to Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek (an excellent primer in strategic thinking). Ecelectic audio books are usually what I’m listening to, when my iPhone is attached to my ear.

One of the fiction books I read (listened to) recently was an alternative history novel by Noami Novek called His Majesty's Dragon: A Novel of Temeraire, which is the first book in a series about the Royal English Air Force during the Napolianic wars. How is that possible? There were no airplanes during the Napolianic wars, you say? Ahhh … but there were dragons. The story is about the relationship between a dragon named “Temeraire” and his trainer and rider “Lawrence”. The thing that intrigued me about this story was the fact that “Lawrence” was a decorated captain in the English navy, and was highly honored and respected in that vocation. He captures a French ship containing a dragon egg, and it changes his life forever.

Of course, there are many things which make this a good book. The plot, character interactions and well written sentences, to name a few. The relationship between Captain Lawrence and Temeraire the dragon is actually quite moving. Oddly enough, the aspect of this story which intrigued me most was Captain Lawrence’s mid-career vocation change. I related to this somehow.

In 2006 when Renee’ and I came to Mongolia, I also left a vocation behind. I wasn’t a decorated sea-captain, but I did know a thing or two about pastoring a church. Thirteen years of trial and error (probably mostly error) had taught me a lot. Coming to Mongolia ramped up the learning curve. Culture and language learning is a steep ascent of Evererest like proportions. Moving from a familiar environment to a completely and alarmingly strange environment is disconcerting to say the least. There can also be an incredible sense of inferiority when around colleagues who have been in this strange and odd environment a little while longer. I related to Captain Lawrences struggles with his new and more experienced dragon-rider associates, as he was often marginalized by them. Howerver, while they were experienced in riding dragons, they were also complete novices when it came to the skill set required to captain a ship, thus the tension.

So often in this story, however, the preparation of being a naval captain served Lawrence well as a dragon-rider in the Royal Air Force. He had eyes which saw things from a different perspective, while in the middle of this enormously steep learning curve. The technical nature and the culture of dragon riding is far different from that of captaining a ship. Yet, in the story (which I won’t give away too much … you should read the book!), Lawrence was uniquely prepared to fulfill his purpose in a greater cause.

Here’s what I know: God is perfect in preparing us and then moving us to whatever His calling and purposes are. I would say that’s true, but I think sometimes this can get a bit hackneyed in our Christian circles. I read the book of Philippians today and was struck by the instructions of Paul to both forget “what lies behind” and strain “forward to what lies ahead” (3:13), while at the same time to “hold true to what we have attained” (3:16).

I am learning that there is so much more to learn.

I am also seeing that God’s preparations really are never finished, and in that sense, it’s really not something to spend a whole lot of time pondering.

I need to listen to the Spirit. It’s that simple. The past is the past. The future is the future, and I can’t do a whole lot about either one of them. But what I can do is listen now. Listening now helps me to learn from the past, and hear the voice of God for the future. As for God, His ways are perfect. Believing His perfection in everything is what we call faith. There are certain ways God is preparing each of us with a unique and specific skill set and with experiences to accomplish something that’s ultimately larger than any one of us.

I find great hope in that today, for some reason.

I also look forward to reading (listening to) the next book in the Temeraire series. It’s in my “listen queue.” I’ve always been fascinated with dragon lore. Now, if only there were some way to add “dragon-riding” to my current skill set…

“And we must still try or we would be leaving our friends to fight without us. I think this is what you have meant by duty, all along; I do understand, at least this much of it.”

Temeraire to Captain Lawrence

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