Perhaps I shouldn’t have said in my last post I’m Still Here! that I was reasonably at peace with waiting for the DDO. No sooner had I published the post that I had a strong sense of being attacked spiritually. Temptations increased. Waiting for the DDO began to feel torturous.
I should have seen that coming.
There is one thing I know for sure, and it is something that many of us have experienced or witnessed. When God is at work, when He is about to do something significant, something that will bring Him glory, Satan will do what he can do to stop it.
Some of Satan’s efforts and exploits are more subtle than others: distracting us from reading the Bible or spending time with God in prayer. Others may be more obvious but require huge strength to resist. C.S. Lewis portrayed Satan at work in the way brilliantly in The Screwtape Letters, a book which is both entertaining and thought provoking.
We all have areas of weakness that Satan can exploit to stop or hinder our walk with God. Some we are known to our friends and family. The more dangerous ones are the ones they don’t know about.
At times such as these I know I should turn to God in prayer, to run into His arms and focus on Him. I was reminded of such in church last weekend when my vicar preached on the Lord’s prayer. When I haven’t, when I have tried to resist in my own strength… well, God in His graciousness has picked me up, dusted me off, forgiven me and sent me on my way once again.
Jesus’ 40 days and nights in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11) came into my head. During that time Satan tried tempting Him. Jesus turned to God’s word and found the strength to resist. Satan left defeated and Jesus was able to go on to complete His ministry, bringing salvation to us and glory to God.
I checked the calendar. Yesterday was the 40th day since the Vocations Chaplain and I met for the final time. It was as though Jesus wanted me to remind me that He too was tempted and showing me how to deal with it. It was encouraging for another reason too: if Satan is having a go at me then this journey God has me on is taking me somewhere good.
I spent some time reflecting on why it was that I was finding waiting a tough task.
On both of our meetings the Vocations Chaplain suggested that a BAP might come my way in early 2014. Whether that was down to his discernment of my calling, a suggested timetable from the diocese, or something else, I don’t know. Of course a BAP may not happen in 2014, it may not happen in 2015, it may not even happen at all. But I respect the Vocations Chaplain. He was clearly a perceptive man and walking closely with God so I have to take his suggestion seriously, even if I don’t hold tightly to it or take it as a certainty.
The problem is… 2014 isn’t very far away.
Going up for ordination is a big deal. As a friend being called to a similar thing in Albania said, church leadership isn’t something that you would choose to do. It brings great privileges and blessings, but it also brings great burdens.
I’m the type of person that likes time to think about things and I don’t like to rush. If I haven’t had the time I need to process things, to get my head around things and understand them I feel very uneasy. I don’t like making decisions when I feel ill-informed.
There are 9 criteria to go through, 9 areas in which my calling will be tested by the DDO, a Bishop and a BAP. 9 areas that I need to give the time they deserve to understand, to contemplate and pray through. If those criteria throw up issues I need to test further, and they surely will, I will need time to do that. And this isn’t even factoring in what the DDO or Bishop will want to discuss, test me on or ask me to do.
There’s a lot to do and, thinking of a BAP in early 2014, not much time to do it in. Frankly I probably wouldn’t think that there was enough time if a BAP was to happen in 2020 or even later. It feels rushed, almost claustrophobic. Perhaps I’m somewhat overcome by the enormity of this calling and its implications.
I also feel confused because a BAP in 2014 sounds quite nice. It suggests a good momentum that will minimise the very thing I’m finding tough right now, waiting!
It all comes back to one thing, trust. I need to trust God and His timing. I need to trust the Vocations Chaplain, the DDO and all placed on my path to discern if God is calling me to be ordained. However, it is much easier to write that than to do it.
At church last Sunday my vicar helpfully preached on the Lord’s prayer. Within his sermon he also referred to Isaiah 55, and specifically verse 13:
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign that will endure forever.
He preached that through prayer and patience God will lead us into the truth, into the place He has planned for us. Out of difficulty God will create something beautiful that will endure. Out of the patience I am trying to practise with this phase of waiting God will change me. Through His transforming power He will take me to a place where I am a better person; a better husband, father, and friend. Above all God will transform me into a better disciple, if I am willing.
Living the life God has planned for us means living life at its fullness, there can be no better place. It is tough to do but the result of it all, if I remain true to His call, will be a contribution towards His eternal work. I can’t ask more than out of life than that.