Yesterday I went to the Ordination service to celebrate with my friend from College as she was ordained Deacon. I sat in the mass of people, bursting with pride at all she had overcome to get to this amazing point. I was excited for her, and the other fifteen individuals who knelt before the Bishop humbly offering their lives in service of God and the Church, and my mind raced to this time next year when it will be my turn.
My emotions could not have been more different than twelve months earlier when I sat in the same place, celebrating with other friends doing the exact same thing.
A year ago, in the throes of a deep depressive episode, I was struggling with anxiety at being in the building at all. Terrified, overwhelmed and horrified that this was what I was going to have to do. I felt trapped. I wanted to stand up and scream in the middle of the service “don’t do it! no! back away! get out while you can!”
I don’t know if I have felt that ill-equipped at any other point in my life, for the path I was on. If so I don’t remember it. Nervous as I was in exams back in my earlier academic life, there was always the comfort of having revised and done my best. In nerve-racking situations at work, again I could comfort myself with having done my best, worked hard, prepared, backed up, double checked. This was totally different. As the Ordinal makes clear “you cannot bear the weight of this calling in your own strength, but only by the grace and power of God”. It doesn’t stop you trying though.
Last year, contemplating the dreadful inevitability of this path I was convinced God was calling me to, I was overwhelmed by fear. All the things I had to give up (in actual fact, I couldn’t name a single definite thing) it felt like a grieving, a desperate wrenching grief. I wasn’t ready, I couldn’t do this.
Over and over, during the following months, people asked me point blank: “do you still want to be ordained”. My honest answer, probably disturbingly honest and unhelpful to those who were trying to help me, was “no, but it is the last thing I was sure God was asking me to do, and until I hear him say something different I think I have to stick with it.”
I am grateful for patient, wise people who heard through my darkness and misery the faith-filled whisper of a heart desperately holding on. It took me a long while, a lifting of the mental anguish that buried me, the gracious support of a kind and wise people from both College and Diocese who fought for me to have the extra year I needed to be ready.
I approach the next twelve months, entering the landing pattern towards (hopefully) ordination in 2018 with excitement, hope, and a quiet confidence in the calling God has for me which is unlike anything I had before. God it seems doesn’t take us back to the ‘simpler’ times, but moves us through to a new time – richer, more colourful in its texture, deeper. The notion of God’s ‘abundance’ has been something I have struggled with during my time of training, feeling it was a touch to close to ‘prosperity gospel’ for my liking.
Last night though, as I reflected: on a joyful morning celebrating with my friends; on many awe-filled prayers and conversations wondering towards this time next year; on leading and preaching a service in a Church I love and seeing with such pleasure as God ministered to people through me; and on an evening with my boyfriend’s family, who love me as I am and welcome me into their home with such warmth. Not to mention chats through the day with good friends and my own dear family. Abundance is, to me, this very feeling of a full heart, something I never understood before but am thankfully, beginning to now.
As the opening hymn from yesterday said:
‘Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee; surely his goodness and mercy do daily attend thee; ponder anew all the Almighty can do, he who with love doth befriend thee.’
Here I am Lord, wholly available now and so excited. What’s next?