If there is doubt, a maybe or simply a curiosity about something it is always worth at least a precursory exploration of the issue rattling around within your thoughts. That exploration may quickly dispel the ‘what if’ and enable it to be forgotten, but it may expand and take you to new places and opportunities that you would have missed had the thought been left unexplored.
That is how the exploration of ordination began for me, and it has both transformed me and served up opportunities I may otherwise have missed.
Having been through ‘the discernment process’ once before, I now find myself doing it all over again, albeit skipping straight to the DDO stage. When something is new all you have is other people’s experiences to help envisage what may lay ahead for you; when you have experienced it before you have no problem envisaging the possible outcomes.
I know that exploring whether you should be ordained is not for the faint hearted, or something to be taking lightly. Each step requires an increasing investment of time, thought and emotions, and whilst it does bring excitement it also tests your very faith. It can bring great highs but also great lows; the highs can mask an issue you really ought to delve more deeply into whilst the lows exposes ones you wish you didn’t need to delve into at all.
Having made the conscious decision to re-engage with the discernment process I know much of what lies ahead for me, although to some extent I wish I didn’t. I know that some issues are yet to be fully dealt with and resolved. I know that I will have to read and address each issue in the report from my first BAP (See Unpastoralised) not just alone, but with my DDO and Bishop. I will have to be humble enough to admit the truth amongst the vitriol, and to show the changes within me that the concerns previously held need not be concerns anymore.
Yet it is not the thought of revisiting the tough times the that alarms me, it is the change in my emotions since my ‘moment of clarity’ and the encouragements that came soon after.
I am excited.
I am excited by church, faith and mission to levels that seem odd, even extreme.
I’m finding myself becoming excited about the prospect of being ordained once again. I am being drawn back to Twitter to interact with those ‘doing God’s work’ – even the simple observation of people’s daily experiences serving God has once more become enthralling and energising.
A video to promote the broadcast of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Ash Wednesday service excited me far more than it should have. Everything stopped for the service itself: my phones and emails were switch off, colleagues were asked to come back later, even my lunch was organised around the service. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been so eager not to miss something.
And during the service itself? As the names of those also watching the service scrolled up the screen showing their location around the world, the feeling of belonging to such a global family as the Anglican Communion was overwhelming, overwhelmingly good.
All in all, my excitement worries me.
When I first boarded the ordination discernment express I became more and more excited about being ordained. That excitement may have clouded my judgement and limited my self-awareness, it certainly contributed to making the impact of not being recommended even worse.
I don’t want to go through that again.
I was serious, and still am, when I wrote that I don’t mind whether I am ordained or not, and that being recommended for training feels a more scary prospect than the reverse. But yet… But yet…
It is quite likely that that the excitement about being ordained will continue to grow as I keep travelling towards a second BAP. And with the growing excitement that mirrors my first experience comes the looming potential of repeating the fall that followed it, should I find my emerging hopes dashed once again.
It is impossible to remain neutral, to not mind either way whether I am ordained for not, no matter how much I try. Should I even bother to try?
Neutrality may be a fruitless endeavour but being grounded should not be. When I was given my ‘moment of clarity’ I was given something onto which to drop anchor and withstand the storms I might face: how and where God enriches my life (see Doing nothing takes time).
Ordination may feel the natural match to live it out in serving God it needn’t be the only place.
I have to remember that most if not all of the places of my enrichment are those that can be occupied by ordained and lay people. I have to remember that ordination is not a badge of honour, or the only way God will use me. I have to remember that God works with us wherever we are and whoever we are. I have to do that because if I go to a second bap I will have to be willing and wanting to be ordained, whilst also at peace and happy wth the alternative.
That is a difficult balancing act to carry off.
How can I balance being rooted in the place of my enrichment, and the peace of handing over the decision of my fate to others deciding my fate, with the growing excitement and sense that God maybe is calling for me to be ordained? Others have managed it without having a nervous breakdown so it must be possible, but how they did is something I need to find out.
I want to enjoy the rising excitement, not be troubled by it.
The solution to my concerns is simple, simpler even that dropping anchor. The solution is to be entwined with God, to root each day in prayer, and to trust in the God who has used the journey so far for good.
Trust. It all comes back to trust.