Tag Archives: calling

Reflections

I’ve just listened to Rick and Kay Warren being interviewed at the HTB leadership conference.

I was hesitant to listen to it. I knew it would hurt. I knew it would poke me in the parts of myself that are still raw and still painful.

I was right.

It is full of the most profound reflections on pain and mental illness, on suicide, on grief; that I have ever heard. If you haven’t listened to it, I really recommend you do.

There are wonderful nuggets of wisdom – but what is most astounding to me, is that through the agony of their words and the beautiful grace of God – that which is the most painful and destructive in life will be the greatest foundation of the greatest works of God.

His words echoed through my memories to one of the hardest seasons of my life when I wanted out. When I wanted an ending more than I wanted restoration, when I wanted oblivion more than I wanted to make a difference – the chaplain of my school told me that these darkest days would be the beginning of my life’s ministry.

I didn’t believe it.

I believed, even in those days, that I had been called into some kind of christian pastoral ministry, but I didn’t believe I would ever be able to live out that calling. I didn’t believe that the agony of those days could ever come to any good.

I was wrong.

I do not claim that this calling is easy, nor do I claim that I want it 100% of the time. Sometimes, I would love to do a job which didn’t involve me opening my heart to those things that have most bruised it. What I do claim, is what an enormous privilege it is to be able to see, in this lifetime, a restoration of some of my darkness.

I quote the book of Joel a lot on this blog – but it’s the promise that I cling to and the promise that I see every day when I go to work.

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten – the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm – my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the LORD your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will be people be shamed.” 2:25-26

I so often felt that the years when my depression had its tightest grip had been lost to me. Not only metaphorically, but because even now I can barely remember those days through the haze of mental illness. These verses from Joel were my promise and are my reminder of why I do what I do.

And when I get weary, I turn to them and to John 10:10 which says “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Mental illness has been a thief in my life, it has stolen years and killed parts of my, left its own legacy in my heart and my mind and on my body.

But in this I have hope – God is bigger than the thief. And more than that, he restores what was lost and gives us more than we could imagine. Truth be told, this side of heaven, it is often not what we would imagine (we prefer to imagine a much easier ride, I think) but what he gives us is greater than an easy ride (however much an easy ride might tempt us). God gives Himself. On a cross. The God of Heaven and Earth, for us, as a broken and scarred young man who understands pain and understands struggle and remains with us through it all. 

It isn’t easy.

But God is in it all.

So it is more than worth it.

Trap or Treasure?

Ever since I can remember, I have felt “called” into a specifically “christian” ministry. I toyed with the idea of being a singer and actress for a while, quickly dismissed the idea of teaching primary school children, rejected the idea of nurse because it involved science etc etc.

All the ideas I considered were never really more than that. Just ideas. Because from the age of five – I’ve known that I have a job to do. I had no idea, of course, of shape and name at that age. But I wanted to be a missionary, a preacher, wanted to work for the Church which I loved so much.

Indeed, the calling got me through my GCSEs and A-Levels. When I wanted so badly to throw in the towel, the knowledge that I needed qualifications to get into LST meant that I carried on.

It has been a massive encouragement and blessing to me, to have an inkling of where I’m headed. God has been incredibly gracious in prodding and calling me on in the right direction, in promising me a future when I was lost in the past. I have treasured my calling.

And yet.

Recently it has begun to feel like a trap.

Because this is hard. This life, is hard.

It takes so much energy, to be the person I feel called to be, to lay my story out for people to poke, prod and question.

And sometimes, I wish for a different life. I wonder if a different life would be less painful. Less all-consuming. Less of a sacrifice?

Because what if I walked an easier road? A comfortable job that didn’t involve the questions?

What if I could feel, for once, like a twenty-two year old instead of a forty-two old?

Perhaps these feelings are some kind of long forgotten and neglected rebellion?

Perhaps, it’s just been a long week.

But the difficulties of this life, this one where I’m called to bare my soul and speak of my vulnerability, this one which uses the pain instead of burying it – it is, after all, the path I chose.

For all my sense of calling, I chose to say ‘yes’. I chose to write and speak about those things which most scarred my soul.

I choose the light instead of giving into the lure of the darkness.

It is a choice I would make again. And again.

And so I guess, this is the price I pay. It is not, in perspective, a very high price. I gave up my “right” to give up on life. I gave up my “right” to give up on God.

I have been through too much to give up now.

I need reminding of that, today of all days. I can see it as a burden, a trap.

Or I can be reminded of the grace it took to get me to today.

 

So I choose to be reminded of grace – to see the gift, instead of the trap.

 

It isn’t easy.

 

I trust that it is worth it.

 

I love my degree

I love my degree. 

I feel enormously privileged that I get to study the word of God, every day. That I get to sit with some of the world’s best theological scholars and just have a chat! That I get to be in a place where people care, about me, about my dreams and about my calling. 

I am writing an essay at the moment about the comfort of God. About how we can communicate the comfort of God to those struggling with mental illness, reading the Bible, what scholars have said about the Bible and how they have illuminated the text. 

I get to grapple with the text and work out how best to encourage and comfort those suffering. 

Of course there are times when I’ve been exhausted and tired and not really want to write another word! But still, I love my degree. 

I am excited about what is coming next – but I can say – without a doubt that these have been the most difficult, most wonderful years of my life. 

I love my degree. And I thank God that I’ve been able to do it!

Trusting through Change

It’s a strange time. I’m fast approaching the end of my degree. The end of three years which have formed me, challenged me and changed me in unimaginable ways.

It’s daunting, because I love LST. I love the people, the atmosphere and the teaching I’ve received and, this evening I bumped into a PhD student who I met on my interview day in 2008. I recalled our meeting when she was in the second year of her undergraduate degree, and I was only seventeen.

Fast forward four years, our lives look very different. I know I look different. At seventeen I was frail. A strange way to describe a 17-year-old, but it’s true. I was exhausted by life, faith and mental illness. LST was my hope for the future. The very thought of the place had sustained me throughout my GCSEs and it focussed my mind in during my A-levels.

It is a scary thought, therefore, that such a change is impending. That the period I had longed for, is nearly over. I have never coped particularly well with change, it has always scared me, even when the change is good.

I’m looking forward to what is to come, but I don’t particularly want to think about the transition. I’d quite like to skip to the bit where I’m used to the next phase. I am determined to make the most of my final few months as an undergraduate before I embark (hopefully!) on post-graduate study and a job in the mental health sector.

I do trust in the fact that God has brought me thus far, despite my doubt and fear. I am thankful that God had brought me through those times when I did not believe I could go on another minute – let alone complete a demanding degree course.

I admit that I am fearful of the future. I admit that I hate change.

And yet,

I trust in the God who remains the same. I trust that God will work through the change.

This is a story of hope

A short testimony I shared with others when we were asked to share our stories of hope:

This is a story of hope…

And yet it begins with an almost complete lack of hope. As 2007 dawned, I had pretty much given up on the idea that the year ahead would hold anything to hope for.

Having been diagnosed with clinical depression three years earlier at 14 – life had seemed to get progressively worse. And I was tired. Of life, and living.

In medical terms, I was acutely and chronically depression – and yet, it was when I was hospitalised for a night that God planted a seed of my calling. Because amidst the blinding pain of my depression, I felt a flicker of something. How can we bring the light of God into this place? How can we get people to understand what others go through every day?

It was a spark that lay dormant and often forgotten about as I fought to recover. Recovery was, and is a long and difficult road – but the glimmer of hope I saw that night in hospital remained as the years that followed continued in a cycle of getting sick, well, sick, well, sicker and well again.

It was not until I came to LST that I began to think about that spark. It was ignited by people who loved and believed in me as I started to think about having a future. The desire to make a change in Churches and communities in the way mental illness is perceived was strong in me.

Because what had been my darkest night – ignited my hope – in the God I serve, His mission and the part I am called to play, amongst those suffering in the darkness of mental illness.

Home Church

This summer, I have been doing some work experience with the Minister of my home church, shadowing the funeral process, leading, preaching and co-leading a Holiday Club Group.

It has been difficult. It has been challenging. It has been a massive learning curve and extremely rewarding. To serve at the Church at which you became a Christian (16 years ago next week!), to preach to people who taught you about the Bible is extremely nerve-wracking.

It shouldn’t be so scary, surely? These people love me, have invested in me and my calling.

And yet, perhaps it is because they expect so much, or because they know so much about me. They have undoubtedly seen me at my worst – and my history seemed to be behind their smiles. It was undoubtedly my insecurity rather than anything they did, but it got me thinking.

Why is it so much harder to serve at your home church after being away. After all, it was the church that I sang my first solo, preached my first message and lead my first service. Perhaps, however, it is that reason that it’s so difficult.

Now, I am not calling myself a prophet by any means – but Luke 4:24 rang true with me ‘I tell you the truth’, he continued, ‘no prophet is accepted in his home town’. It is not that I’m not accepted – I’ve been welcomed back with open arms – but rather it is my feeling of inadequacy that makes me think I’m not good enough and that those people who have known me so well for so long will see that weakness in me.

In my case at least – it is not that I’m not accepted in my home town – it’s that I do not feel accepted in my home town because I have the misguided belief that they can see through to the weaknesses in me that all so glaringly obvious when I look at myself.

Maybe the more we accept ourselves- who we are and where we’ve come from, what we’ve been through and what we’ve resorted to – maybe it then that we accept that we are accepted in our home towns and we are good enough to be accepted.

And why are we good enough?

Because we are no more or less than created and called by the Creator God who has given us all the gifts and skills we need to do the job He has is store for us…