The time has come. The culmination of 17 months exploring ordination has come to this. This week I attend a Bishops’ Advisory Panel.
It is also 1 year to the day that I published my first blog post, my attempt at moving out of my comfort zone and documenting the highs and lows of the discernment process.
It all began, consciously at least, when I sensed God suggest I take a look at it so I didn’t wonder ‘what if?’ later in life. I accepted His invitation and pushed at the door.
I had no expectations about where the process would take me when I began looking into ordination, nor did I have any particular desire of becoming a vicar. I was simply filled with curiosity as I sought to be obedient to God’s suggestion.
God gently revealed more and sent confirmations my way to reassure me that I was on the right track, even if the destination remained unclear for quote a while. He also reminded me how this was no new thing, no passing fad. He took the covers over seeds He had planted many years before, seeds which had been hidden as they grew by life’s rich tapestry.
Gradually, the more I spent time in His presence and pursuing this particular path His, the clearer things became. As my life became consumed by pursuing and living out His will, the more I wanted to remain there and the more I sensed that this meant getting ordained.
As the journey progressed the more other people sensed it too. Some had sensed it for a while but not said anything. Some had said something but I was unable, or unwilling, to hear their suggestion. As I walked along the path set before me I became more receptive, not just to sensing God’s will but to hearing it through what others said to me.
A turning point was my vicar receiving a word from God about me whilst on retreat. It surprised him to an extent (see my post ‘The Ministry of Doubt‘) but it was what I needed to hear. It was not a nicety, a compliment said by a friend, but an unexpected message for both him and me. It was God speaking through another person.
It is comforting to see the parallels with the early church’s way of sending people out and to know that I am not facing the future alone. I face the BAP knowing that I have an army of prayerful support from family, friends and the church. It showed when I went to an early morning prayer meeting at my church during last week. People with much more wisdom and experience than I could muster surrounded me. Their passion for God flowed out as they laid hands on me and the Holy Spirit moved mightily that morning. Several prophetic words were spoken, one centring on my family being called.
It is my family being called, not just me. I would not have embarked on this journey if my wife and I were not united in answering the call. Just we invited God into our marriage as we said our vows, so God is an integral part of my immediate family. He is the glue that binds us together, our love for each other fusing with God’s into one secure unit.
When I look at my children I see their unconditional trust and love of me. And although they may not truly comprehend what moving house or this calling will mean to their world, I know that their sense of security in me and my wife is such that they know they will be okay. They are fearless. It is a picture of how I should be with God, indeed He has been working hard at enabling me to get to such a place. Although fears remain, I have come to realise that I am ready and willing to face whatever the future holds.
It has been a time of learning to trust God more, not just in regards to His will for my life but for my family and their wellbeing too. We have sacrificed time together so I can give the discernment process the time it needs and know that if recommended we will be called to sacrifice more things.
Approaching my BAP I have been preparing myself for receiving the news that I won’t be recommended, to the extent that it has overshadowed the hope that I will be recommended. The fear of failure, for want of a better phrase, grows the more you want something, and I have come to realise over time that I sincerely hope I have discerned my calling correctly and that I will therefore be ordained.
No matter how much I prepare my mind for not being recommended by the BAP’s advisers I cannot prepare my heart. Should I find myself not heading towards theological college I will know I will be emotionally devastated, and just as before on my journey (see the Recovery Room) it will take time for my emotions and intellect to synchronise. Whatever happens, life has changed and will change for me and my family. Whatever happens, life will never be the same.
It is perhaps why in a time of prayer, God gracefully spoke to me. It wasn’t an audible voice, just a realisation of a truth and an uncovering of a thought placed within my mind. It is okay to to want to be recommended for training by the advisers at the BAP. It is okay to be excited.
It is also okay to be scared, for in truth I am somewhat. Whilst feeling so tuned in and connected to God is exhilarating, the future is uncertain. There was less at stake when things went wrong after discerning incorrectly a call into teaching. This time there is much more at stake and much more being asked of me and my family if, and it still is an if, I am recommended for training.
The time has come.
Let’s face the music and dance.