Before I can crawl, I’m trying to walk strong.
Before I fall, I’m looking for somewhere to jump without having a place to land.
When I find a new place to land, I run. I run towards the familiar, to find the path that I know. Or, at least the path that I think I know.
As a child, I lived in books. I lived through Katie Morag, Enid Blyton, Judy Bloom and Harry Potter. As a teenager, I lived in music. I lived through Lulu. As a young adult, I live in Church. I live through my home congregation, National Youth Assembly, Church and Society and Priority Areas.
And now, I find myself at a turning point. As of August, I’ll no longer be considered a young person – a status I’ve been so fiercely protective of since I first had the opportunity to ‘make a difference’ in 2009. And it’s an experience I rarely talk of because of how it came to an end. Around the same time, I ran for the first time.
I thought I wanted to be an RE teacher, so went to university to pursue it. The theory appealed to me, and the practical didn’t. I ended up being ill, swine flu was doing the rounds and because I had one date where my absence couldn’t be accounted for, I failed.
I had the opportunity to resit during summer school but I made the choice to run. This is the one thing I have never regretted.
This is when I first told someone that I knew I was called to something different. What I understood to be Ministry. They didn’t agree and I let it affect the next 4 years of my life.
During this time I had the occasional opportunity to preach, and grew to have such an intense love for it.
Then I found the first place where I didn’t need to conform to fit it. I didn’t need to not talk about faith, Lulu or call. I found the National Youth Assembly – the family I didn’t know I needed, and the minute I found it, I knew I couldn’t let it go. So, I grabbed with both hands and I still haven’t let go. Until then, I didn’t understand what it meant to feel welcome. Until then, I didn’t understand what life could be.
And then came an opportunity to volunteer. The way I see serving, for me, is that if I was Roman Catholic, I’d become a Nun. I’d give all that I am, and all that I had, to do what’s needed.
Then Volunteering Vocations materialised and it sounded like the perfect experience for me – giving me a practical opportunity to take a year to explore a potential call. So, I applied and I fought for the programme to be run. And they didn’t.
But, the opportunity came back around the following year and I went for it again. And I got placed. I got Glasgow, when I desperately wanted Arbroath.
But I rallied, and was energised by the prospect of being able to challenge myself – for me, it would have been the year to confirm a call I already felt.
It all felt pretty real, and I ran. Except this wasn’t my usual run and hide – I ran towards what I thought I hadn’t been facing up to. I chose to apply for Ministry.
The rational side to where I was at was – I felt called. People who feel called apply for Ministry. Other people who feel called don’t take a year to try before you buy. Sure, there were other factors. How could I leave my sister? My parents? Things weren’t great. And then, how could I give up the things I had just found? Like NYA? Church and Society?
Everything I felt I had to leave, or I was being asked to leave, I had fought for. So, the easy option was to run. And, boy, did I run.
I ran, hurtling towards Discernment at such a speed. At the time, it felt like time was going by so slowly. Now, one year on, it’s a blur. Speed is the best word I can use for my Discernment experience, and that was my fault. I ran at things, and tried to prove I was ready. I loved my placement, and wholeheartedly value the experience and everything I gained – so please don’t let what I’m saying make you think otherwise. My placement facilitated me being in a space of feeling ready and equipped. They empowered me to be able to do things I didn’t think I could and come to enjoy the things I dreaded.
It finished on a high, but what came next blindsided me.
I had spent the last 10-11 months running towards the destination I saw God hurtling me towards, and suddenly it was gone. The light at the end of the tunnel disappeared.
And I still had to go to an Assessment Conference and convince strangers that I was called to Ministry of Word and Sacrament.
I’ve never been a good liar. When you can’t explain what makes you called – there’s something wrong. And there was.. there is.
So, by this point, I was invested in pursuing the evening course I had to do to be able to get into university to study to Theology (a requirement for Candidates). The commitment meant that the ideal scenario would be finding a part time job – after all, one day I would wake up and find the path again, wouldn’t I? I had to be ready.
So, the job wasn’t really important because it would be temporary. This only had to tide me over until the course was over.
I applied for a few jobs and almost resigned myself to having to struggle with a full time job and studying part time.
Then I got a wee email from the Church of Scotland inviting me to an interview for a job I had applied for in Priority Areas. The application had been a speed effort, submitted approx 20 mins before the deadline but it must have been ok.
Then I saw who was interviewing, and I wanted the ground to swallow me up.
Part of the Volunteering Vocations programme is that you have a, what they call, House Chaplain and mine would have been the person interviewing me for this job. At no point had I had the intelligence level to make the connection.. which I realise is the stupidest thing now! Like legit, idiot.
To be fair, had I known I probably wouldn’t have applied for the job. I’d have ran in ANY other direction because… AWKWARD.
At this point, the job was still a means to an end.
Then I got it.
I got to leave the job that was dragging me down. It’s amazing how you don’t realise how unhappy you were until you actually feel it – that whole smiling for no reason thing.
Until I started this job, I wasn’t a smiling for no reason kind of person. I started, and I got chucked in at the deep end – the best way to start! Legit. It spoke to my inner all-or-nothing personality.
So I went from one week working in a quarry looking forward to me-time when I got to do ‘Church stuff’, to the next week getting to do the ‘Church stuff’ I loved AND getting paid to do it.
I didn’t particularly want that job – and by that, I mean that it was wanted as a by-product of something else. What I didn’t know was that it was what I needed.
And by need, I mean NEED.
Within days there was a total difference in my mental health and general outlook. I had a renewed purpose. And I realised pretty quickly that what I didn’t think I wanted, I now wanted more than anything. I wanted more than anything to stay in Priority Areas for as long as I could.
Which, along with some other things, led me to postpone the evening course. If I didn’t know when I wanted to apply to university, it became apparent that there wasn’t much point in doing something that I might have to then re-do.
And that leads me to today. Today I live in the realisation that all of my running away from things has led me right back to where God has been calling me.
I’m a big fan of The Sound of Music and could, at one point, provide the film script before the actors on screen could. There’s a line in that film that keeps coming back to haunt me; “When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.”
When a door closes, it’s easy to take refuge in the darkness rather than searching for a window. For me, I’ve always been a window searcher. In this case, the door closing for me was, for the moment, Ministry of Word and Sacrament but I couldn’t see the window. And that’s where the absolute beauty comes.. sometimes we can’t see the window until it’s flooded your darkened room with Light.
For me, the window I couldn’t see was Priority Areas and with that, I come full circle. I closed the door on Priority Areas initially by walking away from Volunteering Vocations but God made me a window. He pulled me back. He Called.
Within church settings, we don’t talk enough about call outside of a formal Ministry setting. I live life knowing I am called. I’m enjoying life far more than I ever have, or even thought possible, knowing I’m called to Priority Areas.
And, that’s ok. In fact, it’s not. It’s the best thing that’s happened to me.
I don’t have to be what people tell me I should be, or head in directions they think will be good for me, because at the end of the day, God will lead me where I need to be for whatever reason He needs me to be there.
He needs me to be in Priority Areas.
Maybe, for the moment He needs me to be there for me – for me to realise things, to learn and grow.. all of which I’m doing but I have a long way to go and that is ok. Because, when I’ve learnt these lessons – when I’ve finally learned to learn, He’ll reveal my true purpose. He will reveal the good I’m intended to do… and maybe the learning will lead me to that fact that I’ve been fulfilling it all along.
And, that is ok – Priority Areas is reality for me. Everything else is just imaginary…
“If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.”
… I’m looking at paradise..
‘Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”‘ – Isaiah 6:8