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When I joined the Merchant Navy as a sixteen-year old I signed an agreement that covered my four-year training as a cadet/apprentice. The ultimate goal was to become sufficiently competent both to pass exams and to function as a navigating officer on a merchant ship. Without training at sea and during the two six-month periods ashore at nautical college I could never expect to become a competent and trustworthy navigator.

Although I only stayed at sea for two years after the completion of my cadetship I have returned from time to time. Once as part of a ship-delivery team, then as a hydrographic surveyor, and finally as a university researcher looking into one-man bridge operation on small vessels. I couldn’t have fulfilled any of those roles without the training I received at the start of my career and the three years I subsequently spent at university.

As a sixteen-year old I could never have imagined the different jobs I would do later in life, including my current role, which has little to do with maritime matters. But I know that I could not have done any of it without that four-year apprenticeship. Training and preparation is vital. While I cannot see the future, God views my entire life in an instant. He planned it. He sent me to sea because He needed to use that experience later on in my life. He put me where I am now. He has prepared and trained me for everything He has expected from me.

Every now and then I still find myself wondering why I am doing what I am doing in the present. I guess that none of us know why God has put us where we are in the now. Our only options are to trust and to carry on following Him. But I am beginning to realise that everything in life is in some way or form a preparation for what God has in store for me next. And I realise that I am still an apprentice, still learning, still making mistakes, still trying to make my own plans.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-15)