The first month of training

What can I say, other than, how has it been only a month since I started my theological training?

The conversations, the sea of new faces, the breadth of new information and the seemingly endless possibilities of what my future may look like… all of it stretching out in front of me, almost a never ending reminder of all the reasons why I should quit whilst I am ahead.

During my first residential weekend away, my daughter had stopped sleeping. She was affected by my absence more than we could have thought in advance. And so, on the Monday morning, I was ready to pack it all in. How on earth could God have called me at this point in my life? How could I do this to my darling child?

Yet, that day was filled with encouraging conversations and the smell of my mum’s lasagne cooking in the oven when I came home. And by the end of the week she had started sleeping again. She has seemingly forgotten the betrayal of my going away. It’s a good thing to, as it’s only a fortnight until I go away again – this time for a week.

I have hurt my brain through reading, lost much sleep comforting my child, spoken to 100s of students about trying church, and told toddlers how much God loves them. Whilst being utterly exhausting, this month has also been incredibly encouraging and life giving.

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:14

“Don’t aspire to be normal…”

The freeing words uttered to us this morning, our first day as ordinands at St Mellitus College in Liverpool.

In a world where people aspire to fit in, whilst also wishing to be accepted as they are; to conform to what society says is valuable and good, and to look dimly upon those things which are out of fashion, these words are refreshing and oh so very freeing.

Despite the fact that I read the bible and pray, the fact that I know who God says I am and wishes me to be, identity and acceptance is something I have forever struggled with. Almost like weighing scales, I tip up and down as I wrestle with who I am. Though I no longer feel the crippling fear of walking into a room of people, like I once did when I was much younger, I do still find new social situations tougher than people imagine I will.

But today was different. I was in a room with people who were like me, but also so different. And when our tutor said those words, it was as though a wave swept over me and all of my past worries about who I am.

I am me. I have things which are wonderful about me, and I have flaws too. I have hobbies and passions. I have dislikes and things which do not interest me in the slightest. I have mistakes in my past and, no doubt, mistakes in my future. But I am still me.

God has called me to this point. God has not made a mistake. God knows all of what makes me me, and he wants to use it all. He doesn’t want me to fit in or to try and be like someone else. He doesn’t want me to aim for ‘normal’.

He wants me to aim for him, and let him make me extraordinary.