This year has been impossible, really. Not impossible to survive, not impossibly difficult, but almost impossible to imagine that all things should have come together in this way.
See, in 2015 I’d been restless. I’d lost interest in the kind of work that meant staring at a computer screen for 7 hours a day. I was frustrated with earning plenty of money only to have it drain away into London rents, and frittered away on London socialising. I felt trapped in a big city, and drawn toward the open expanse of small-town community life.
So 2016 became a year of big ideas, grand dreams, and prayers that went: “God, am I crazy to think…?” In 2016, I listened to God with an unnerving intensity. And in 2016, I nailed my rainbow colours to the mast, got down on one knee, and proposed a brilliant idea for the rest of our lives. And in 2016, I moved up north with a strange feeling in my gut that God was asking me to put myself forward for ordination, but no idea what the Church of England might make of me. It was a year of throwing everything up in the air with a crazed grin.
In 2017, the cloud of dust began to clear, and I was amazed at where it settled.
In January, a panel of diocesan advisors said they thought my gut feeling about ordination could be right, and the Bishop agreed to send me to a national panel to find out.
In March, I found myself sitting in an office in Cranmer Hall, excitedly chattering about the Masters course I could do if, by some act of divine intervention, I ended up studying there.
In May, my heart almost beat right out of my chest as a short phone call told me the national panel had agreed that I should train for ordination, and I spent the next week wondering if I’d really heard the Bishop’s words right.
Fortunately, I had a hen party to distract me, and as June hurtled past, I filled every waking minute with cutting up confetti, phoning coach companies, searching for shoes and writing a speech.
When July arrived, swathes of our family and friends descended on Cornwall to join us in a whirlwind of worship, prayer, colour and joy as we made our vows and joined our lives together forever.
Later in the summer, we arrived home from the holiday of a lifetime to move into our first home, delighted and overwhelmed in equal measure by the fun of filling a house and learning to share the ins and outs of everyday life with another human.
And as autumn arrived, I was thrown into the washing machine that is theological college, churned around for a while, and enlarged rather than shrunk! We spent the term making friends, making bonfires, making a mess, making cocktails and, when necessary, making amends.
All the while, we’ve giggled away in disbelief, the two of us looking at one another and saying, “Look! Look what God’s done. He’s given us a house to live in, a house just for us!”
And we’ve flopped on the sofa after an evening with wonderful people, and said to one another, “Look what he’s done, he’s given us people, lovely people, to be our friends!”
And we’ve chattered over Sunday lunch about baptisms we’ve seen, or ideas we’ve read about, or sermons we’re writing and we’ve realised, “Isn’t God kind? Isn’t he good to give us a way to do all that we’re made for, to give us purpose and a way to exercise it?”
He is kind, the God we know. I see his kindness to us every day. I couldn’t escape it if I tried.
It might seem dishonest to pick out the highlights and credit them to God, without staring into the face of 2017’s pain and blaming it on him too. And in truth, there’s been plenty of times when it’s been hard to hear God’s voice; when there are more questions than answers; when sackcloth and ashes seem the only right response to very real human suffering.
But a little voice inside me keeps whispering, “Look! Look what he’s done. You thought it was impossible, but he has done it.”
There are plenty more impossibilities in 2018, and plenty more unknowns. What will the Church of England do with a pair of civilly-partnered evangelical ordinands in need of curacies? Where will God find a place for us? How will I ever fit in all the work that needs to be done? Do I have enough focus in me to write a dissertation? Can he dampen the pride and selfishness in me, and will he transform my ambition into prayer?
So I’m very glad of that little voice, then, who is so persistent in her whispers.
“Look! Look what God did. I wonder what he’s going to do next? What an artist he is, and what a joker – how much joy it brings him to surprise you and delight you with his clever ways. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Because look, look what he’s already doing!”
Next year may well be impossible. Not impossible to survive, or impossibly difficult (although perhaps it might), but impossible to imagine how all things might come together.
But God is already doing the impossible; it would be daft to think he’ll stop it now.