The past 6 years have been an interesting journey. The journey into ordination has been fun, exciting, scary, painful, disappointing yet full of hope.
God's plans are generally never our plans, his plans are far superior to ours, often bringing into our lives things that we could never have imagined ourselves doing, yet they were His plans for our lives all along.
Ordination is one of those things for me. Ten years ago I didn't even know Jesus, I had a concept of God as one sitting on a fluffy cloud up in heaven, but no personal knowledge of his love for me. If you had told me I was going to do this I would have laughed very loudly!
I'm an organiser, lists person, I like to know what is going on in my life and plan accordingly. Recently we had some work done on our garden, and I have had fun making it look beautiful. Part of this was filling a large basket with allium bulbs to grow over the winter and give a beautiful display next year. I carefully looked at the instructions on the three types of bulbs, planting the ones that would grow taller at the back of the basket, the medium sized ones strategically placed in between them and the shorter ones at the front in a zig zag pattern so they would all blend together and look gorgeous. I planted them in hope of a pretty display in the garden to enjoy in the summer.
But nature had other plans. A few days later I spotted that our local cats had decided to use this basket as a litter tray, the bulbs churned up and pooed upon! No longer in the order I had planted them in and very much desecrated by cat faeces. Today I have noticed my dog having a go at the basket, digging in it, attracted by the smell of cat poo, once again the bulbs all churned up and the soil from the basket spilled all over the patio stones. My beautiful plans for the summer messed up by nature, the very thing I was trying to control. My mind has gone to the place of picking out all the bulbs and starting again! My husband split his sides laughing when I told him what I might do. So I told myself not to be so anal and have decided to live in hope that these bulbs will do what nature calls them to do in that basket which is grow and be the way God intended them to be, and not arranged in an orderly way like I intended them to be.
As I thought about it this basket very much reflects my life for the last six years. I went into the ordination process thinking so many others have gone before me what can go wrong? It will work like this, I will go to an interview and then three years later get ordained, stay at St Bs, job done. But looking back now, how wrong could I have been.
My ordered life has been churned up, pooed on, bits of me spilled out all over the place, other bits chopped off never to be seen again in the formation process that is ordination. When God has a plan for your life there are generally things he has to change to make it happen; things that have happened to you in the past, been spoken over you, learnt behaviour patterns that need to change in order for you to be the person he planned you to be, and not the person the world has made you. And believe you me some of this hurts as you lose who you thought you were and is very confusing. I now see that the reason I ordered my life, controlled it, was to feel safe, but as Mr Beaver says in CS Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,
"Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
In the past six years I have failed, not something I do well; I have upset people, not something I like doing; I haven't been able to cope at times frozen by fear, not something I would have thought I would do; I have cried, not something I do easily; I have felt extreme anger, something I was told not to do as a child; I have realised that not everyone deserves my love, which is really hard to grasp; I have learnt how to say no, probably the messiest and toughest lesson; I have learnt about forgiveness and what a painful journey that can be; I have lost and learnt how to mourn; I have learnt how to love, look after and respect myself, when I would naturally put others first; and after a long fight I have laid down all my plans for the future, and when I did God immediately stepped in with his plan for my life which will be challenging but is really exciting.
My beautiful ordered and planned life basket has been well and truly churned up, dug in and pooed on, and now I have submitted it to God I have hope that His plan will be that I will continue to grow, not in the place I had planted myself, but in the place He is planting me. At the same time as my basket of bulbs in the garden will be flowering I will be leaving St Bs, in June 2015 when I am ordained I will be off to the the place God has called me to, His plan. I can't tell you where that is at the moment, but it isn't far away. The prospect of this is scary, but I am pretty sure that the experiences of the last six years have put me in a good place to deal with all the new challenges I will face there. Secretly I am most excited about all the dressing up I get to do in clerical clothes, sadly no Vicar onesies!
God has a plan for each of our lives, you can't control nature, you definitely can't control God. Yes these last six years have had their mountain highs and valley lows, but I feel more like me that I ever have, there is a freedom and strength in that; and I know that nothing I do I do alone, He is with me. Safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.
"For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."
Jeremiah 29:11New Living Translation (NLT)
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.
Psalm 39:7 New Living Translation (NLT)