A new Monday morning dawns and I seem to have fallen into a pattern of Mondays being an office/admin day. (well, it's worked the last few weeks, but a quick look at the diary shows it's the last for a while!) It works quite well as I get ahead of myself and the rest of the week seems to pan out better, notwithstanding the unexpected stuff of life with a toddler and in youth ministry!
I'm especially appreciating the space today as I get back to the nitty gritty after quite a grotty weekend.
Recent posts make no bones of the fact that, as a family and as individuals within that, we are in a bit of a state of flux. The history of all that goes back a long long way...around the time that Andy and I first met and he had returned to faith. Questions about our role in church leadership and which of us might be called to priesthood, ordination, church planting etc etc have always been around. They would at various times return to our present thinking for us to question and then would return to the back of our minds.
Our move down to Essex in 2006 was a response to a heightened sense that God was doing something new and different at that time - He certainly was as M came along pretty smartish after that! Her arrival and the move and the newness of jobs, church and location have all allowed us more space to say 'what now?'
In recent years, our understanding of our calling, as individuals and as a family has been in a certain language - church leadership, youth ministry, leadership development, mentoring....and along with our visit to the States in 2008 and my time at Pilgrimage and being immersed in LifeShapes stuff and The Order of Mission, we have had a lot to think about and process.
I'm always a bit sceptical when things that seem painful have a happy ending - they always seem to in other people! However, I can testify that out of the pain of my back injury in June, something became very clear. We were enjoying a weekend as a family as I was off work and we went for a (slow!) walk one Saturday before coming home for M to nap. During the nap time, I was leafing through youthwork magazine and was struck by a job vacancy which leapt out of the page at me...
The conversation that ensued involved us realising that we somehow needed to make space for Andy to explore the possibilities of ordination and the priesthood, specifically within the Anglican Church. He was first told/asked to consider that journey when he was 19 and at Oasis Youth Ministry in Manchester. It's been asked again more recently and become a more regular conversation (with others, rather than amongst the two of us) and we've always greeted it with a hmmm...But this was a realisation in both of us and this particular job provided a possible route, giving space as well as a return to an Anglican Church to gain immersion in that culture and the structural support that would be required.
With all that zooming round our heads, and the closing date for the job not until mid September, we plunged into our busy summer and talked about everything that was happening during car journeys and whilst trying to sleep at Soul Survivor! We put a number of fleeces out - and through those, God made it clear to apply for the job. Despite this, at one point I told Andy I couldn't go ahead, I loved my job too much and we needed to take things slower...but he and others rightly reminded me that the job had leapt out at us for a reason, and we needed to allow due process to happen. So I did apply, with some trepidation and reluctance but a huge amount of excitement and a sense of the possibilities opening up to us.
I've never been in that position - applying for a job when I didn't need a job or from having a job that I loved. It was a strange experience. My current job is one which has moulded around me, where I have found a niche and I see that God is using me to be effective in the local church. Although hugely challenging a lot of the time, it resonates with so much of where I know God wants to use me. As a family it works for us, it fulfills my need for people contact (although not always enough face to face youth work sometimes!)but I also have to be very self disciplined in how I work and managing my time effectively and spiritually.
I spent a long time over the application. By the end of it, I was fed up with the 'selling of myself' that such a process requires and I was glad to be done with it! Most of the time, I felt totally crippled with self doubt, could I do this if I got it, how would I cope with a job with such responsibility and the pressure of what the job might allow Andy to do as a result did feel like a big weight. Overall, it was all a hugely painful process - the thought of the implications of moving again (it is not a local job), the upheaval that would cause, the starting over (I had a stupid dream about there not being any hairdressers in the new place and my barnet getting out of control!!) and there were people that we wanted to make aware of this possible next move and whom we have hurt just in the telling. Despite the excitement and what this opportunity might all bring, we felt pretty crap.
And so we waited....and on Saturday, I got a letter to say that I hadn't been shortlisted.
Andy was in Brighton on the bike ride...so I stewed and ranted and cried a bit by myself. I talked to a few people...the general response was confusion, sympathy, surprise and sadness with a big fat dose of relief...one lovely person told me I'd always be top of their shortlist! A part of me was glad that I didn't get shortlisted - the door has been firmly closed and locked and there is no wondering about 'could I have done better' as there might have been with an interview.
And today, I sit here in my office, sorting out the mundane and pushing paper around, doing some emails and prep for training and I wonder...what is God doing? He's doing something, that's for sure and I'm running into that, cos He is my strong tower and my hiding place.
This is what we know: we know Andy is called to the priesthood, but we don't know how or in what 'way'. We know we want to respond to God's call, for Andy specifically at this time but for our family overall. We know for that to take place, we need to be back in an Anglican Church to allow that process to happen. We know we need to honour the process of selection that is required and we want to do that well while exiting and leaving behind other things in a godly and sensitive way. We know God has it in hand and we know He loves us. We know that this has been His call on Andy's life since he was 19. And we know God has never let us down and won't this time.
These are the simple facts - we share with you what we know...and we wait for God to make the next step clear. It's OK, because He is in control. I have no idea whether applying for THAT job was the wrong decision or whether we just needed to go through that process to make the priesthood path clearer. Who knows...but I'm glad we're not going anywhere for a while!