Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.
Last week I met with a Vocations Chaplain as part of my exploration of whether God is calling me to be ordained as a priest in the Church of England. In my previous post (“Who I am I today?“) I wrote of the challenge I felt to not pretend to be the person I thought the Vocations Chaplain would want to see, but to be true to myself.
During my meeting I came to the realisation that my life has had, in one respect at least, something in common with Jesus’s disciples. Just as the true meaning of things Jesus said or did was kept from the disciples, it seems that I may have been prevented from seeing and understanding certain things until now.
Let me explain!
Although my exploration of Anglican ordination began in earnest earlier this year I have talked about the subject in a seemingly trivial and sporadic fashion since becoming a Christian (see my post “I am called…”). I certainly felt the call of God during this time but never did it feel like I was being called to become ordained, nor did I take such talk seriously. God’s calling in these years seemed focused on short-term projects, on relationships and on spiritual tests and trials.
It is almost as though I have been going through life not being able to see properly. It is almost as if I am living in ‘The Matrix’.
In The Matrix, Neo lives in a world that seems real and perfectly acceptable. Life is fine, if perhaps a little mundane. There are hints that there is something else but nothing that screams out “Wake up!”. When asked, he decides that he wants to look on his world with new eyes, to become fully aware of what is happening around him and how he fits in to that world.
In my world, on that run, I was asked a similar question by God. He suggested that I should at least explore ordination, nothing more. He didn’t show a grand plan, or give me a picture of my life in a few years time, He just offered a choice: take the blue pill, dismiss His suggestion and carry on with my perfectly acceptable life; take the red pill and open myself, and my mind, to a path that was uncertain but one that would open my eyes to what was around me.
I took the red pill.
As my exploration of this particular calling developed this year I gradually began to tell friends and chat with them about it. Strange things began to happen. Unsolicited, friends would remind me of past conversations we had had, about their or my feeling that I was being called to preach and to be a pastor, or vicar. One friend passed on a conversation they had had with someone else who had only briefly met me yet said to them out of my ear-shot that they thought I would make a good vicar. Had I been told of this at the time it would have had little or no impact, so why has it now?
I entered my meeting with my Vocations Chaplain with my personality and my experiences laid bare. In doing so he was able to tell me things about myself that I hadn’t noticed. He helped me to become more aware of myself than I had been when I arrived that evening. Had I worn a mask his job would have been harder and the meeting would have been less helpful.
As I ended my meeting with the Vocations Chaplain I realised that I had not been ready to hear a calling from God towards ordination before this year, and God knew that too. We all develop and learn at different rates. Perhaps I’m a slow learner but God has been using the past 15 years to mould and shape me into who I am now.
The fact that I feel a call to explore right now doesn’t negate my past with God; He has certainly called and used me in the past, but for other things. In one sense it is a little frustrating, almost as though I have wasted all that time. But would I change my past? Would you?
Whilst most of my past has been a blessing and a delight it has also seen some dark and painful periods. But my past brought me to my present and has shaped me to a certain extent. It has also seen God provide a stable and secure foundation of a loving wife and children, and home to call my own, all things I have craved for as long as I can remember. Having strengthened my foundations He can now lead me on to a new phase in my life and journey. Had I tried to pursue or explore my current path earlier I suspect that it would have been a fruitless struggle.
If I changed the past I wouldn’t be who I am, and who I am is who God loves, warts and all.
In life, our level of awareness of what is going on around us changes, whether God is part of it or not. Often, the more questions we ask the more we realise that we don’t know. Sometimes that can be scary and daunting, and lead to us closing the door and running in the opposite direction. Sometimes the questions we ask can give tantalising answers that intrigue us and make us want to plunge deeper into the issue.
The Vocations Chaplain left me with some questions to ponder, questions that may help direct me along the right route. As I seek answers to the questions I was given I am confident my awareness of what my next steps should be will increase.
God has also helped me to become more aware of Him and more in-tune with Him. I feel as though I can see more clearly now. The clarity is being delivered more gradually than it was to Neo. Past conversations and experiences are beginning to make sense, well some of them!
I may not feel as though I am wandering about in the fog, and yes the path is becoming clearer, but I still can not say for sure whether I can make out the destination. Although perhaps I am sitting on the fence, hedging my bets because I am too scared to declare I can in case I am wrong. I should take strength from the confidence the Vocations Chaplain had in me being called to go further along this path. Whatever the case the destination will become clearer as I continue this particular journey and as more people walk alongside me to discern together what exactly God has in plan for me.
For now I have those questions to answer, which will no doubt form future posts on this blog. There is much more to discover and I am excited to see what I find.