I’m worn out. I haven’t even got to the Bishops’ Advisory and I’m worn out.
I knew this was coming. It wasn’t a word from God, a message from the Holy Spirit. It was far more mundane than that. It was a mixture of circumstances and the compression of 6 months BAP preparation into 6 weeks.
After putting our house in market last week, in an equal act of faith and practicality, we had been overwhelmed by the response. We had put our house on the market previously and had 1 offer in 10 months. This time, admittedly with a different set of economic conditions, we had 4 offers in 4 days. The house was sold, subject to contract, in under a week.
Now if God isn’t part of our house sale I will eat my hat, and believe me when I say that I don’t like eating hats.
God being part of our house sale does not, I know, equate to me being recommended for ordination training as a result of my BAP. It does though provide me with encouragement in my wife’s and my own attempts to discern and be obedient to His calling. It suggests that the seemingly impossible is becoming possible, that God is moving mountains to enable me to start training in September if the panel recommends me.
The acceptance of an offer does not, of course, equate to the sale of a house. There is much to be done before the sale is completed, and there are signs that the spiritual battle I have taken on by being obedient could manifest itself in the sale.
It was natural, and to be expected though, that in contemplating the next stage I should think first of using the sale to purchase an investment property, one that could fund a retirement property. It is a reaction that tells more than me that my heart is not on the status quo. My heart is not in my current job. My heart is in serving God and God is moving me and my family on.
I am acutely aware of how blessed I am to be in a position to be able to consider buying a home at all, whether it is for my family or another to live in. That said, change is a coming. My wife and I both know that our present lifestyle and work needs to change. The next few weeks would give an indication of what direction that change might take.
Amongst the property whirlwind I had meetings after work with my Spiritual Director, my DDO, a priest, and my reading partner (a man of wisdom and insightful theological knowledge).
My Spiritual Director challenged me to take a breath occasionally, to invite God into each thing that I do. It was an important reminder; I have found occasionally as I have explored ordination that the process of doing so can ironically, and all too easily, shut the door on God. With my BAP only days away the importance of being in tune with God could not be understated.
My DDO gave me encouragement and affirmation, and gave structure to my preparations. She believed in me and my calling, and she knew I had the ability to demonstrate that to the panel’s advisers. She and I both know that the way my mind works is not always conducive to interviews. Consequently I need to consciously think through the questions I might be asked, the selection criteria, my sponsoring report and my registration form. I need to bring the knowledge, feelings and experiences held in my subconscious into my consciousness. I need to prepare to avoid waffling and thinking aloud, I need to prepare concise and articulate points that will show the advisers who I am.
My meeting with an ordained priest, a curate at my church, turned out to be illuminating. It turned out that one of the advisers at my BAP was an adviser at his. This adviser had interviewed him and it hadn’t been a pleasant experience, in fact he had felt it had been a disaster. It had been the personality clash that I had experienced with one of my examining chaplains. Yet despite my friend feeling devastated afterwards the adviser had still recommended him.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed. I know if I am interviewed by the adviser not to be surprised if I meet a fearsome character. I know not to be put off if the tone, language and mannerisms on display suggests a negative reception to my answers. I know not to read too much into the interviews, that how I feel will not necessarily be a reflection on how they went or on the advisers’ discernment of my calling.
Hearing personal knowledge about, and experience of, the advisers from both my friend and my DDO was helpful preparation in itself. It added more flesh to the bones, made the people on my page of profiles feel more real. It would help me to be able to relax more quickly in their presence.
My fourth and final meeting of the week was with the member of my church that has lent his insightful and theologically-tuned mind to my cause.
He listened intently to the presentation talk I have prepared for the BAP. Whilst I had had good feedback from some, it didn’t excite him. It touched on a culture and element of modern life that he knows little about. That in itself was helpful. What it did do was to remind me that I am speaking on an area of life that not all people are involved or care about; I need to make sure I phrase the core message in a way that is of interest to such people. What it didn’t do was make me want to change the core of the presentation; I am speaking about issues which I am passionate about, I just need to make sure that passion comes across and does so coherently and concisely, I only have 5 minutes.
And I have only a week until I give the presentation, take part in the discussions, tackle the pastoral exercise, complete the personal inventory, and face the interviews.
We all prepare for things in different ways. We all do what we know we need to do. I know what I need to do, and that includes relaxing and recharging my batteries. I’m going to need all the physical and emotional energy I can get hold off if I am to do my wife, my vicar, my Vocations Chaplain, my DDO, my Examinations Chaplains, my Bishop, my church and my Lord God justice.