Endings are significant. They mark something. A change? A close? Maybe even a new beginning? The first half term of my theological training has come and gone by so quickly, and over the course of my ‘break’ I have been reflecting on all that has taken place over the last 6 weeks. What God has been saying to me. And where I see the Spirit moving in my life.
Recently, I have felt overwhelmed, and yet somehow alone. And I’ve been reflecting recently on the fact that offering yourself for full-time ministry can be a very lonely place indeed. Yes I have a wonderful husband, a supportive family and a core group of friends who have stuck around to journey in this season with me, but I somehow still feel isolated, out on the edge, away from it all – whatever it all is! I remember when I finished school, someone said to me ‘it is here that you will have friends for life’, and I didn’t. I moved to a different college, made new friends, and lost contact with nearly everyone from school. And then in college I thought ‘it is here where I will find friends who I will have for life’, and though I had some deep, valuable friendships, even they fizzled away after we all went in our different directions. And then university came. This time, I thought to myself, this time it will be different. This time I will find friends who will be friends for life. but, 2 years out of university, I sense that though there are still some in my life who I met at university, my relationships with them aren’t quite the same, nor are they quite how I envisaged them being once I entered adulthood.
But there is something inside of me that longs for deep friendship. There is something inside of me that longs for a community to belong to. There is something inside of me that wants to find a place where I can fully be me. Because, if I’m honest, there aren’t many places where I can be me. I’m either the Parish Ordinand, or the Curate’s Wife (both of which I love being). But I often wonder, how much I can just be ‘Jess’ in those places. The further into ministry I go, the less space there will be, for me to be fully myself. I will have particular responsibilities. There will be people who want me to be particular things for them. And though I offer something of myself to the role, I cannot offer all of myself to it. And yet, I know I need those spaces, those spaces to fully be myself because otherwise, I couldn’t fully do what God has called me to do. I am so thankful to those who have chosen to walk this path with me, but I am aware that this path isn’t easy. I am aware that this path isn’t ordinary. And I am aware that this path sometimes takes me away from the things and the people that I love.
When I was at University, it was easy to form friendships, and maintain them; it was easy to be a part of a community, because it was intentional. But post-university, I have come to discover that that’s not so easy. That your friendships and the community you belong to are what you make of them. And so I am constantly searching for sanctuary. For a safe space. For a sacred space. For a space where I can be fully me, but in a space where I can be fully me with others. I need people. I know that I cannot walk this path alone. I wonder where those spaces might be for you? I wonder whether you know who those people are in your life with whom you can fully be yourself? I’ve learnt that the hard way. I have loved, and I have lost. And I wonder what role God has in all of this? Is this stripping back or honing in for a purpose? Will those who are so actively involved in my life now, always be so actively involved in my life? And will I be able to find those places of sanctuary, those places of safety, the further into ministry I go?
Formation (the official term the Church of England like to use when talking about training) isn’t easy, but its necessary. Over the past 5 years, I know that God has been creating me to be the person he has called me to be. And that has meant letting go of some things, and walking away from some things. And that has been hard. And I know over the next 2 years, and for the rest of my ministry and Christian life, God will continue to change, form and shape me into the person he wants me to be. And so it is all the more important that I can find those places of sanctuary and safety, those places I can belong, be known, and be loved. And its surprising where and with whom that is…
Jesus said: For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.