Thursday, September 23, 2004

Decisions, decisions

Indecision can be a horrible thing, and I've had a summer full of it. At the end of June, I finished 2 years of bible college, coming out with a quite respectable diploma in theology.
I originally embarked upon the course, partly because I found God had put a passion in my heart to study his word and theology, partly because I was starting to get more involved at Coventry Vineyard, doing bits of teaching, leading small groups etc, and partly because I was sick of software engineering and an opportunity to get out of it via a voluntary redundancy package had come up.
I had a fantastic first year, which was very much a survey of the whole bible, along with modules in pastoral theology, missions, evangelism and lots of other fun stuff. Some of it was new to me, some I already knew, and some parts were downright frustrating, but on the whole I enjoyed it and I was hungry for more.
So, I started the second year. This felt like a real privilege. Su was so supportive. I had a bursary from The Jerusalem trust (from one branch of the Sainbury's family), and combined with a house remortgage, I was able to pay the fees. The work was more in depth, and more interesting. I especially enjoyed Pauline theology and anything by the NT lecturer Dr. Moxon. (some of my fellow students found this stuff mind-bogglingly difficult, but I relished every minute)
All the time I had a growing sense of wanting to be able to teach this stuff, and pastor people, helping them to grow as disciples. Dare I possibly believe that God might be calling me into this role? But I had, (and still have) questions : did I really believe in paid ministry? doesn't this perpetuate a clergy/laity divide? aren't we all 'full-time' for the kingdom? do I really want to deal with the pressure and the problems and the people and the pain? if I was to do this stuff 'for a living', when and where will it be? and what job should I do in the mean-time?
The plan was, to finish the second year, get my diploma, get a proper job, see what develops at Coventry Vineyard and await further instructions. It crossed my mind that it might be nice to finish off the degree, but I quickly wrote this off as a purely selfish notion.
Trouble was, towards the end of the second year, some of my lecturers, and in particular the college principal, Dr. Massey, started to suggest that it might be a good idea for me to do the third year. (well, they would say that, wouldn't they?) Dr. Massey even prayed for me and gave me a 'word' about not leaving foundations unfinished. (I managed to discount this fairly quickly too). I talked to him and Dr. Moxon in depth, voicing my objections. How could I possibly expect Su to support me for another year? How could we afford it? Shouldn't I get a 'real' job and support my wife like a good husband? What about our plans to start a family in the not too distant future?
But it was too late. The seed had been sown. My quandary had begun. All summer I have prayed and thought and weighed up the pros and cons: I might never get this opportunity again, but what's it leading to? it's what God has given me a passion to do, but am I not being selfish? How can I put Su through the pressure of exams and essays again (when, believe me I'm not a nice person to be around), what on earth would su's dad say? what is God saying? SHOULDN'T I JUST GET A PROPER JOB? and on and on it went.
I applied for jobs that sounded interesting, where I would be expressing my pastoral heart and hopefully doing some good - the probation service, the Cyrenians (a homelessness organisation in Coventry), the refugee centre, but nothing came back. I didn't even qualify for dole!
I feel I have had a taste of what it must be like to be unemployed. I have felt depressed and useless. The indecision has been killing me. I was waiting for a clear 'Go for it!' or 'Don't do it!' from God, and nothing seemed to be clear.
Most people I talked to, reflected back to me that they thought it was in my heart to go back. It seemed the main objections were financial, and wanting to know that Su was happy with it.
To cut a long story short, I have decided to go back and finish off the degree. I don't know where the money's going to come from, but we're looking at it as an adventure in trusting God, we need to learn how to live on less money anyway. Having made the decision, I feel at peace, and I'm really excited about going back. Su has been amazing. As I tell her often, she is the best wife in the world, ever!

Lord, I thank you for helping me through this tricky time. I thank you for my wife and the way she supports me and puts up with me. I pray you'd help me to make the most of this year and that you'd reveal more of yourself to me. Make me wise,keep me humble, help me to pass on what I learn and guide me into the vocation you have for me, your grateful servant. Amen.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Hi Jon

I hadn't realised quite how much of a hard time you've been havign over this.

I for one am pleased that you've decided to carry on with the course - and i'll pray as much as I'm able, that God will help sort out your finances and support. You might remember I spent a while as a fundraiser - if I can help, I will?

Hope you're both well.