It’s been a while.
As I enter into a new season it seemed sensible to bring this blog up-to-date with a review of time past, present and future.
It started with a voice (see I am called).
“I want you to look at ordination, I don’t want you to wonder ‘what if?’”. It had been the last thing I had expected or wanted to hear but the message was clear: God was asking me to browse without feeling committed.
In obedience I began exploring ordination every so tentatively. A CPAS Vocations Weekend away with my wife helped us decide it was right to jump on-board the Church of England’s ordination train, yet I still had an open mind.
Whether I was ordained wasn’t what mattered to me, living God’s will for me was. Yet as the discernment process went through it’s various stages I found myself coming alive. It was as if God had played a kindly trick on me, knowing full-well that I would have run a mile if He had told me His desire for me to be ordained.
Each step took me deeper into God’s presence, each step fuel the fire. By the time I had reached the BAP my desire and God’s seemed to be fused into one, that of being ordained. Yet as I stepped foot into the building I felt relaxed about the outcome: I would be content whether the decision was to recommend me for ordination training or not.
I was wrong, very wrong.
Over a year has gone by since I heard that I was not being recommended for training to become ordained. It was a confusing time: what had the past 18 months been all about? What was God up to? Did He want me to be ordained or did I and others badly misinterpret the signs and suggestions? Did we view things from God’s perspective or the world’s? Was it God or was it me?
Questions, questions, so many questions. But not many answers, nor was I going to be able to hear them for some time, if at all.
I had been told that not being recommended for ordination after a BAP often led people into a period of grief; although hearing and experiencing it is quite different.
The process does require a tremendous emotional investment so it isn’t surprising that I found myself feeling devastated and demoralised, lost and confused. But in that very moment that I needed God close I felt cut off from Him.
With the rug pulled from underneath my feet, initially there were tears, then came the anger and confusion: my blog posts immediately after the decision show that (see The Land of Confusion, Please Sir, can I have some more and Unpastoralised). I wanted answers and explanations, to know why it had happened and what God was playing at, but I knew that pursuing them was a fruitless task. I needed time to pass through the period of grief before I could even attempt to tune into God’s voice once more.
It was at this point that things went wrong. The pain of being rejected by the church made me deaf to more than just God’s voice. Instead of taking up offers of help and talking openly about my thoughts and feelings I attempted to deal with them myself. Alone with my thoughts I entered into a period of depression (see The Big D) that had the potential to destroy much more than that which God had built up during the discernment process.
It was being invited to preach that began the process of emerging from the pit, of trying to once more tune into God’s wavelength. As I prepared each sermon I began to re-engage with God and scripture, and I realised that I had made big strides with something that He had been trying to teach me for a long time: patience.
I felt no need to rush to find answers.
My main task was to find peace: peace with the decision of the Bishops’ Advisory Panel; peace with God; and peace with my life and myself. I needed to be able to view myself as God and others view me, indeed as our loved ones view each of us: often God and on-lookers see and value the gifts and talents within each one of us far better than ourselves.
I would be a fool to say that I have truly found peace, or clarity, although both are beginning to emerge. The answers will come but chasing after them is ultimately frustrating, God will reveal them when I am ready.
Before I was proactive, now I’m reactive. Before I pursued the answer like a task to be ticked off a to-do list, this time my pursuit is simply to walk in-tune with the super-natural and the natural. The schedule has gone, the journey has not: this time I have no road map, no tasks to suggest a direction or answers to pursue; I am simply being called to continue walking along the discernment trail and let the answers come to me.
The answers that have come are only partial ones, hints of what may have been the purpose of the journey so far and of what may be the direction of my future. They have brought a sense of knowing something without being able to pin it down or put it into words that I can comprehend, let alone come to terms with or communicate.
Each person I have been in conversation with, each moment I have waited on the Lord, each shout, each cry, each experience has had something to teach me, something to contemplate on and pray over before moving onto the next.
Clarity has come in what God would have me do, in the people He would have me reach out to and in the gifts He has placed within me. But clarity of what form it should take is still elusive and the residue damage from the BAP places limitations on my confidence of being able to discern if it is God or wishful-thinking speaking.
What is clear, sometimes painfully so, is that I am being called to stay on the path of discerning whether I should return to another BAP. Each attempt to get off the path, to call time on pursuing ordination, has met with an encouragement to stay on it.
Irrespective of the people that would have to be convinced the advisors got it wrong, attending a second BAP is not something I relish. It is not the BAP that I fear but the aftermath, and I’m not sure which aftermath I fear most: being recommended or not.
For now I take comfort from knowing that the future hinted at will bear fruit whether I am ordained or not. And in that comfort there is peace.
That’ll do for now.
Postscript: I did indeed go to a second BAP. if you would like to jump ahead in the story and find out what happened read Going to a BAP, again!