There is a time for everything under the sun, and I’ve spent a lot of it in the shade of a restaurant waiting on tables and pulling pints. I have been disappointed, despondent and defeated. I’ve felt frustrated and furious. I’ve wrestled with the fact of this time of waiting and I’ve felt jealous of those who have found success when I have experienced failure.
This has been the time after my ministry training.
This time is coming to a close.
On the 29th of September I am going to get on a plane and I shall arrive in Washington DC seven hours later.
I am finally going to fulfil the purpose I was called to over two years ago.
I am grateful.
I am grateful to the friends who have prayed for me, supported me, and believed in God for me. These have been the people who have helped me open the door through form-filling and filing and petitioning, through pleading with God and sitting with me whilst I try to figure out why God has asked me to wait here so long.
I am grateful too for the time I have spent working at The Young Pretender. I’ve felt like a pretender, an impostor with nothing to offer and no claim to do anything remarkable at all. There were times when even I didn’t believe I’d ever make it back and I became thoroughly bitter. My colleagues have born with me through this, allowing me to be part of their life and business despite whatever personal flaws I struggle to reconcile. In turn I have been overjoyed to be included in their struggles and triumphs, their highs and lows. They have given me the gift of knowing that I can be myself.
I am grateful.
Whatever else this between-time signifies, it has meant that I have had no choice but to be myself. The demands of a physically exhausting job means that whatever professional pretence I could maintain quickly dissolves until people experience me without my defences. That they could experience this and not hate me, this has been a blessing. This time of waiting has demolished the fears I held on to and has liberated me from my own self-pity.
It seems that the biggest obstacle to God fulfilling the ministry he has given me, was myself all along.
Thank you, all you who have read my letters and checked up on me. You have believed in me and in God for me when I doubted him and hated myself. Thank you.
Last month I took a trip to the US embassy in London. After queuing for half an hour to be checked in, and another 40 minutes to have my bags searched, and another hour in a hot waiting room, I spoke to a mild-mannered American man for two minutes and he told me he was going to give me a visa. Quite the circus if you ask me but it is what it is.
The embassy authorised me for a 12 month visitors visa. I think this is time enough to fulfil the ministry to which I have been called: enabling christians to form authentic friendships with the marginalised community where they live.
I cannot deny that my time working in a pub has made me more ready to do this than my time in theological college or working for a church.
It is true that my research into scripture and church tradition has given me the imagination to see a new way of being with the marginalised and disenfranchised, but it is equally the case that working in a pub has put me quite literally next to these people in such a way that being with them comes more naturally than it did two years ago.
What has changed is not the vision, but myself. I did not expect that. I could not have preached this message on Job were it not for what I have experienced in disappointment and frustration.
I am grateful.
So as this short season draws to its close I’d really like to find ways to connect, be it in writing or over the phone or coffee somewhere.
Please pray for me and the inevitable melancholy of the many farewells over the next few weeks. Check up on me if you’re in my neighbourhood. I know I’m going to need to lean on friends in this time.
Also pray that the financial support will be enough for me to accomplish all that I envision.
If you would like to contribute to my costs with a one-off gift or with regular giving you can do so through stewardship.org.uk (create a giving account and search my name) or leave a comment asking me to email a mail-off Direct Debit form. If you’re in America you can give through the church by clicking here.
Thank you for waiting with me. I am looking forward to sharing this next year with you as we discover something new together! I shall be writing regular reflections and reports of what I am discovering and I am considering a few opportunities for more formal academic writing and research and in this way I hope to be of service not only in Annapolis but also to churches in a wide range of locations and contexts.