A whole year ago I wrote in my diary one question: Will I make it to one year?
This was because I had already begun to struggle with the cost of unpaid ordained ministry juggled with my paid job (teaching) and wider family life too. I sat with one of our bishops and shared that the pattern wasn’t sustainable and that I wasn’t sure if I’d make it to the end of my first ordained year, never mind to the end of my curacy.
Well, I made it to one year… but in a way unimaginable this time last year.
I had hoped there might be a stipend (paid role) for me, an investment in me, an imaginative solution to the problem of the ever-increasing over-stretching of self.
Did I think I’d find it in rural Shropshire?
I’d never visited the place, not even for a day trip – though I came dangerously close on a road trip once upon a time.
But an invitation was extended… to follow Jesus to Shropshire, that I might find space to grow into myself as a minister, wife and mum.
“But I heard less of the crazy talk and a lot more of the wise talk and I was hopeful enough to keep listening until the day I found myself transformed into an entire garden of roses.”
Mary Oliver, Rumi
The poet, Mary Oliver, expresses the kind of total life transformation that somehow takes us completely by surprise. As the protagonist follows the famous fellow with “long beard and dusty feet”, they linger on, listening with hope.
There is no indication of time lapsed between this hopeful following and the transformation, and yet we know that time must have lapsed. A garden of roses takes time. A garden of roses requires patience and imagination. It requires careful pruning and a skilled gardener. It requires love.
The same too for our lives, as we accept the invitation to follow Jesus. It will bring transformation, some of which may be sudden and immediately noticeable, much of which we will only notice when we’re surrounded by the roses.
A whole year ago I couldn’t have imagined much of how the 12 months would unfold. There was a lot of pain, as the pruning and cutting back has taken place. But there’s also been joy and laughter in abundance. That’s life, I suppose. A mixture of painful thorns amongst beautiful roses. I am just so very thankful for the patient gardener working in my life.
The most loving gardener.
His name is Jesus and he invites you to follow him into hope.