After yesterday's hear on sleeve stuff, a couple of photos of lovely flowers given to me by folk at church today. Lots of words of encouragment and a few hugs... I hope that admission of fallibility and clay feet frees other people to feel safe to take risks with each other.
This post comes with a health warning... it's brutally honest so don't read it if you are the least bit fragile. This is not a 'nice minister' post, it's a 'this is how it is for me today' post...
You might want to listen to this song as you read:
This song was one of those on my Pink Ribbon Walk playlist, chosen for me by a very proud Scot and 'bc buddy'. It was a long time since I'd heard it, but in the past three months it has been a kind of 'touch stone' for my own experience... "all I wanted was an ordinary life"... but it wasn't to be. Some of it my choice, some of it force of circumstance, some of it so much better than I could have dreamed of, some of it worse than my nightmares... but it has been, and continues to be 'a life less ordinary' (to pinch a film title)
I don't have any regrets about my life so far - it is what it is, and it is part of something bigger and more beautiful than I can comprehend. But...
"I don't know where I'll be in ten years time" - I don't even know if I will be, let alone where I'll be. In my darkest moments, when the fear of recurrence or metastases invades my consciousness I do wonder 'will I be here in years to come'... am I over-reacting to symptoms that could just be part of ageing or am I stupidly dismissing as trival signs of something signfiicant?
"All I wanted was an ordinary life" - just a bright kid from a council house, all I wanted was to get an education, get a good job, have a house, car and a cat... was that too much to ask? I achieved them all, and then surrendered them, one by one, to follow what I believed, and still believe, to be God's call on my life.
"What makes you different from anyone here?" Nothing... and everything... Over the past few months I've become more and more aware of not fitting anywhere anymore (I told you this was a brutally honest post). Not belonging in England. Not belonging in Scotland. Not even sure what British means any more... Baptist minister John Rackley once described the minister as 'the intentional outsider', the one who deliberately maintains a degree of provisionality in their relationships... I get that, but it isn't me, isn't how I operate. Yet, despite my best efforts, despite loving both the congregations entrsuted to me until it hurts, I know I am never entirely 'of' them, there is always the unspoken fact that one day I will go and they will carry on without me.
"Do you miss your life back home?" Where's home? What, even, is 'home? I grew up with 'home' as the various houses where my parents and siblings lived together; as an adult I've joked that it was 'wherever I parked my car'; more recently I have quipped 'wherever Holly (cat) is'... Following God's call on my life has left me somewhat rootless, with no clear sense of 'home'... I have an eschatalogical understanding of course, but increasingly, wherever I reside there's a sense of being a 'reisdent alien'. Do I miss my life back home? I guess I miss knowing what, never mind where, 'home' was.
"I don't care about the cameras, I don't care about the lights..." I never wanted to be "the first ordained woman minister in sole pastoral charge of a Baptist church in Scotland" I just wanted, given that was my calling, to get on and do it the best I can. I never wanted to be a name in Baptist history books, or a role model for other women ministers. I never wanted to be anything other than ordinary... but it wasn't my choice, and I try as best I can to live up to the expectations.
"At night when you go to bed, do these thoughts run through your head..." These, and so many, many more. The over-reflection on anything and everything. The self-flagellation over the things I said that turned out to be unhelpful or hurtful. The fear of fouling up, of messing up the way for other women called into ministry in Baptist churches. The fear of letting God down. The disappointments with myself, with others, with systems... So many, many thoughts...
So, in case anyone who loves me has managed to get this far, the few things I am still sure of are:
God has called me to be the person I am, where I am, doing what I am
There is absolutely no sense that I want to move away from this place or this role (indeed I saw a job advertisement yesterday that once I would have leaped at and it held zero attraction)
I love Glasgow; I love Scotland; I love England... and that's not always an easy or comfortable blend
I love my church, there is nowhere else I could imagine being at this point in time, or in any future I can conceive
Way back when as I explored a call to ordained minsitry, I read a little book called something like 'no matter what the cost' about Christian discipleship - and I thought 'I can sign up for that'. Perhaps as well I couldn't know the future.
I don't know where, or even if, I'll be in ten years time -
I don't care about the 'firstness' or the 'Baptist history'
All I wanted was an ordinary life...
At night when I go to bed
These thoughts (and more) run through my head
I don't know about the future,
And I cannot change the past
But somewhere in it all God has a plan...
And it seems this is no ordinary life...
To live is Christ, to die is gain -
But in between,
The urgent need of the gospel outweighs any desire of mine for ordinariness
That fall back of the blogger with either (a) nothing to say or (b) plenty to say but not convinced it should be said: the list of links of stuff 'out there'
This article entitled Scotland the Brave has been 'liked' on social media by some Christians I suspect are smarting most at the moment. I am choosing their implicit commendation in linking it. Scotland is a brave nation, a beautiful, proud nation, and now it needs every ounce of all those as it steps forward.
As the Westminster government voted by a huge, cross-party majority to take further military action in Iraq, then this from the JPIT and this from BUS are worth reading and reflecting upon...
It's no secret that I have lots of 'bc buddies' - women who I 'met' or met-for-real as a result of a shared experience. This from an online friend, a decade younger and a similar distance down the line, struck a chord with my own experience... and how amazing it was (is) to be fifty-plus!!
A complex and confusing world, locally, globally... Lord have mercy
This week I was down in Swanwick for a couple of nights at the BUGB ministers' refresher conference. I love Swanwick, it holds many happy memories for me, and it did not disappoint.
It was good to catch up with friends serving in Wales and England, and good to listen to the thoughts of others. It was a privilege to share my NZ paper with a small group, who laughed in the right places and engaged in good discussion afterwards.
It was good, too, to get back home, to pick up the routine work of ministry, to wrestle with real concerns, to be the person I am called to be.
I'm not honestly sure I came back feeling refreshed, but I came home with stuff to ponder, and that seems like a positive outcome.
Down the years, I've managed to set off for church having left various things at home... books or papers, a service script (thankfully I had time, on that occasion, to drive the ten miles home and back again and still be early!), visual aids and so on.
Today I managed to arrive at church without my keys! So, even before my day begins I've walked a few miles (a little in excess of 4 I think) and I still managed to be here with plenty of time for the various tasks today will bring.
Ninety-nine times out of every hundred, I put my church keys in the same pocket of my handbag... yesterday I didn't and a rare failure to check before I set off this morning meant they were still in my coat pocket from yesterday.
The moral of this tale? Even organised people are fallible, and me especially so.