We packed our bags, loaded up the van, and set off on the 8-hour drive to the North East – and it felt like the moment had finally come.
Since Rose was accepted for ordination training, we knew our lives were about to change. Since we’d decided on her training college and I’d accepted my placement, we knew where that change would take us. Since I’d handed in my notice at work, we knew the change was official. Since we’d booked removal vans and organised goodbye parties, we knew the changes were imminent. We’d been waiting, waiting, waiting – for the best part of a year. And when we set off to the North East, the waiting was finally over.
And yet, it didn’t end at all.
A few weeks into term, I went somewhat nervously to my first ‘Spice’ Bible study, a group for the spouses of those in vicar-training. The theme, to my surprise, was waiting. And as this room full of women (yes, they were all women) opened up and shared snapshots of their lives, I realised there was no one there who wasn’t waiting. And many had spent a long time waiting.
Waiting while their partners were in the discernment process… waiting to see if life would be turned upside down by God’s call. Waiting for the decisions… waiting for the move. Waiting when they’d got to college… waiting for school places for children… waiting to find work… waiting to feel settled. Waiting when curacies were being discussed… waiting for visits… waiting for decisions. Waiting for a clearer vision of the future… waiting for a home to settle in for more than a couple of years… waiting to carve out a role for themselves in a new place and a new life.
We talked about being in liminal space – having moved on from the old and familiar, but still waiting for the new to begin. It seems to fit theological college life for both ordinands, waiting to embark on the ministry they’ve been called to, and their families.
As I’ve embarked on my own process of discernment with the Diocese, I’ve found that almost every day of every week involves waiting – waiting for paperwork, waiting for meetings, waiting for letters, waiting for interviews, waiting for panels, waiting to hear. There have been times when it’s felt exciting, fast and fun.
And times when I’ve been glad of the breathing space.
And times too, more recently especially, when the waiting has been almost more than I can bear. It’s weighed heavy on my chest, claiming every spare thought when my mind isn’t otherwise occupied.
But whatever the outcomes of all our waiting, of this waiting (because there will surely always be more)… nothing will change, not really.
Sure, on one level everything will change. I’m living at the moment in two communities: one where we’re all involved in vocational discernment and the other where people are preparing for ordination. And it’s so intense because of the enormity of the decisions and changes we’re dealing with. To seek to hear and respond to God’s call affects everything – the person you are… the role you embody… the prayers you pray… the place you live… the churches you serve… the work you do… the family you nurture… the home you open… the people you welcome. It’s no wonder this waiting seems to take over everything else.
But at a more true, more real level, nothing will change. I’ve found encouragement and comfort in the last few weeks from singing and praying about the faithfulness of God. Looking back at the years of my life (you do a lot of that in the discernment process), I can see clearly how God has been close, been guiding, been shaping, been challenging, been calling. I can see how God has never once left me alone. I can see how he’s orchestrated and inspired, breathed life and fanned flames. And I trust that his faithfulness will never change, no matter what comes next.
And looking forward to the possibilities of the years ahead (there’s a lot of that too), I already know what my life will look like: it looks like adventuring in God’s story. It looks like listening for his voice, being obedient to his call, going when he takes us, diving into his will, embodying his love, serving his people, working for justice, fighting for peace, and relentlessly sharing the good news that the Kingdom of God is near.
The rest is detail. Significant, important, life-shaping, but detail.
So wherever my wait takes me, I’m safe in the knowledge that God is faithful and God has already given me all I need to get on with life in his adventure.