It was actually taken last week in Cardiff city centre. This is one of the entry points through the ring of steel fence that has been put in place prior to the Nato summit that is being held there this week.
Walking into the city centre a few days ago was one of the strangest experiences of my life. As we arrived at the ring of steel, we couldn’t cross the road to get to the shops because of the fence. We had to walk for several minutes to get to a gate that allowed us through.
There was a strange mix of messages. The sign saying boat trips this way seemed out of place with the imposing security barrier. The river for a few hundred yards into the park was also fenced off. You could have a boat trip, but only if you were willing to climb through the barrier at a makeshift entrance.
I felt very sad for the business owners during the busy tourist season.
My wife and I were in Cardiff having dropped our car into a local garage. When I said we were walking into the city centre the garage owner warned us not to go saying it was awful at the moment. Other locals seemed embarrassed by it because lets face it, large steel fences don’t exactly say ‘you are welcome here’.
I wonder what barriers we put up? Are we welcoming to other people or do we regularly give out a leave me alone vibe? If we send out this vibe, do we also feel sorry for ourselves because no one talks to us?
I wonder what barriers we face in life? When we face difficulties do we persevere or turn away? The gates in the fence were there to be found, there were ways through but it just needed some extra effort.
Paul who was one of the leaders of the 1st century church had an experience of being blocked. From Antioch he wanted to head west into Asia but ‘the Holy Spirit prevented him’. He then tried to head North into Bithynia but ‘the Spirit of Jesus did not allow him to go there’. So he ended up heading west to the port of Troas.
Was Paul discouraged when he arrived? He had tried to go his way twice and had been blocked and now he was somewhere he may not have wanted to be. During the night after he had arrived in Troas, Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia calling for help. Paul took this as a sign from God that he should go to Macedonia to share the good news about Jesus. (You can read about this in Acts 16.6-10).
Look at the map and follow the red line. Because Paul had been blocked from going where he had wanted, he was now in a place where he could easily get to Macedonia. Troas was close and as it was also a port he also has access to ships to get him there.
Paul may have been frustrated but he was in the perfect place to do what he needed to do next.
How about you? How do you feel about where you are? Do you feel you have been blocked from getting where you want to be? Have you told God about your frustrations and asked him to give you a vision of what he wants for your life?
In life there are ways forward.
Will we pray for God’s guidance, asking him to show us the way through?
Will we persevere, asking God for his strength?