This is what I wrote on my old blog on 17th June 2009, almost four years ago to the day:
Over last Advent, the story which haunted me was God’s calling of Abram: ‘Leave your country, your kindred and your father’s house for a country which I shall show you’. I thought about how that must have felt, to leave behind all that was familiar and safe, to start out on a journey without knowing the destination, to trust, to have faith that God would provide. I thought about the absurdity of it.
This facing the unknown was something which resonated. After learning in September that we would never be able to have children, I felt like the future I had written for Justin and me had disappeared completely. Our life together would never take the shape I always imagined it would, and there was no new story, no new vision of the future, to replace the old one. I was forced to live in the present, to take each day as it came, to immerse myself in my studies and trust that each step I was taking had a purpose. There is a lot I could write about what happened during that first semester and how what had been loss became freedom. I could write about how it was me that was being reshaped, not my future. Maybe it was a slow process, but my awareness of it came suddenly, deeply and painfully. I questioned it. I tried to run away. I made up excuses. I thought of all the ways I would fail. I got angry.
When Advent came, I sat with Abram and Sarai. I imagined their conversations as they prepared for their journey. I thought about their fear and their doubts, wondered how they explained their plans to their community, marvelled at their faith and courage. I pondered all the impossibles of their story. And I saw God in it.
In January, I saw the Diocesan Director of Ordinands and started the selection process for ordination in the Scottish Episcopal Church.
In many ways, though the DDO affirmed my sense of vocation almost immediately, this was the most challenging part of the process for me as I struggled to find my voice. Throughout much of it, I felt like I was using words and images which did not belong to me, which were not authentic expressions of what I believed. I found myself at times only able to articulate my beliefs in a negative way, and the language of Reformed theology from New College only added to the confusion.
Tuesday 2nd June, I had the Scottish Selection Panel, which consisted of an evening meal with the other candidates and the advisers followed by two very intense interviews. Somehow, by the grace of God (and through the help of friends and a great spiritual director), the words I needed and the images I could engage with appeared. I would not say that the interviews were fun, but I did play with the answers and enjoyed the challenge of the questions.
For the next week, I second-guessed all my responses to the questions I was asked. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. I hardly spoke. I was weepy, impatient, moody.
On Tuesday 9th, the Morning Prayer readings were about Abram and Sarai. I looked back to Advent, over the months since. And I saw God in it.
The next day, I received the letter from the Bishop of Edinburgh telling me the panel had recommended that I proceed to the next step, the Bishops’ Advisory Panel in England. For about the thousandth time during this process, I cried.
I think it still hasn’t sunk in. Or maybe it’s just right, and I feel peace about it. I know I’m not completely through – the English Panel won’t be easy – but I feel like I’m on more solid ground somehow. I haven’t wanted to write about it on here because I have felt so vulnerable with it, and there were a number of people close to me in real life whom I hadn’t told. I still hesitate to write much about it, but it’s such a huge part of my life now that I’m finding it more difficult to compartmentalise it.
It’s hard to say what the shape of our future will be, but I am excited (and nervous) about this step. There’s still a long road ahead with plenty of unknowns, but for now, I feel happy. And whole. And humbled.
In two months, on 17th August, I will be ordained priest.
Today, I was at Godly Play training, and after the introductions, the first story that was told to us was the story of Abram and Sarai. As the story came to an end, I looked back at the footprints in the sand across the desert, and I blinked back tears.
‘It takes courage to walk through the desert’, the storyteller had said. I never considered myself courageous. Instead, I could still feel the disorientation of those first steps, the pain as the hot sand ground into my unprotected feet, the sun beating down. I could see the haze of the heat in the distance, blinding me, hiding my path, the desert changing shape every time the wind blew.
‘And then God came close to Abram and Abram came close to God. And Abram knew what God wanted him to do.’ The storyteller’s hands descended in a movement reminiscent of the priest’s hands at the epiclesis during the Eucharist, the gesture which in a few weeks’ time, I will be making during my first Mass. The thought made me tremble as I watched the storyteller’s hands hover and shake over Abram. Shadows in the form of giant wings appeared on the sand. ‘In the shadow of your wings, I will seek refuge . . . In the shadow of your wings, I will sing your praises, O Lord.’
I stared at the story and looked back to the journey I have made. There was only the faintest path of footprints through the vast desert. The wind had dulled their outline. But the blisters on my feet, the tatters and frayed edges of my old self, my windswept soul all speak of the distance I have traveled.
I have come so far. I have cursed. I have rejoiced. I have stumbled. I have danced. I have wept. And I have laughed at the God who has promised all along I will one day be a mother.
And now, as the sand continues to shift and the heat continues to burn, I can feel God draw near. I can hear the whisper, ‘There. There it is. There is your great family. There is where I am leading you. You are nearly there. Here. Take my hand and we will walk these last steps together.’