The Faith and the Fear – a reflection from discernment

Ready? Preparing to take aim (My first ever go at archery - in a friends vicarage garden August 2005)

It is the first of at least two reflections that cover some of the thoughts and emotions I went through during the final stages of discernment of my calling to ordination (a process that my fellow parishioners at St Peter’s Yateley were unaware of). I’m not sure how useful they are to anyone else, but they might give an insight into the mixture of thoughts and emotions that people going through the process may have to contend with. 

Last Sunday (19th Feb – Seventh of Ordinary Time) was the last before Lent and the reading about the Transfiguration  was the focus of the All Age Service I attended at St Peter’s.

We were posed a question about what thing/s in our lives had caused us both tremendous excitement, but also fear. My face obviously betrayed my instant reaction because it was commented on by the preacher! Thankfully I was not pressed to reveal what it was that had come to mind, as that would have required a lie in the circumstances!

What my face betrayed was not the flippant answer ‘marriage’ that would have been my ‘cover story’, but of course my offering myself for selection to the priesthood. With 5 weeks to go before the selection conference (BAP) I am full of both a tremendous excitement and fear. 

Taking aim! (The husband having a go - it's OK the church beyond the hedge isn't in any danger!)

The fears revolve around being ‘found out’; shown for what I am in a negative way that highlights my weaknesses, and found to be wanting in my faithfulness to the gospel. These may well show up at BAP in a way that has not been revealed to my advisers up until now – despite my best efforts!

If this has been posted on my blog, these fears have (once again – they’re hardly new, or likely to go away) proved un-necessary. The Church of England must believe I am called to the priesthood, warts and all.

And that of course, is where the tremendous excitement lies. If I did not believe, with others who endorse the idea, that I am indeed called by God to be ordained as a priest, then believe me I would not be in these final stages of preparation to exhibit that belief to those with the authority to decide my future one way or the other.

The Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-9) is a passage that (among other things) shows the confusion and fear, as well as the excitement and awe, that the disciples felt when God revealed before their eyes the true glory and position of his Son, Jesus Christ.

Today, responding to this tremendous call on my life that God has revealed and confirmed to me already in so many ways, I stand in awe at God’s grace and love that he should wish to use me in this way. I know that my unworthyness to fulfil the task I understand to be before me, will only be overcome by that grace and the strength (emotional, spiritual and physical) that God wants to give me, if I listen to Jesus words as the disciples were commanded in Mark 9:7.

Shoot! (A proper longbowman with arrow in flight - Stokesay Castle moat - Aug 2005)

At the end of that All Age service someone shared a picture that had been given by one of the members of the youth housegroup earlier in the week. It was of an arrow being sighted on its target (hence the illustrations to this blog-post): only if the archer keeps the line of sight fixed firmly on target will the arrow fly true and hit its mark. As she explained I thought: only if I keep my eyes truly focused on Jesus, his example and words, will I be able to be faithful in my obedience to this calling to ordination.

[Having been recommended for training as a priest, and reflected a little further with friends, it seems that this tension between certainty as to one’s calling, and a sense of inadequacy as to the ability to fulfil it, is what you learn to hold in balance during what is called ‘formation’ as an ordinand and through curacy. All thanks to God’s grace and guidance! You’re welcome to remind me of this in the future!]



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