“Seeking to walk with God in today’s world”.
Evensong Sunday 9th March 2008
My mother always said I was destined to be a Librarian. I tried very hard not to be, I wanted to do something much more exciting then that! As a major league film fanatic I wanted to emulate the lives I saw on screen, but lacking the space flight needed to be Luke Skywalker or indeed the “license to kill” needed to be James Bond I instead settled on another great hero of mine and duly went to university to study Archaeology fully convinced that I was going to be the next Indiana Jones. Destiny is not something to be thwarted though it seems. My path was set early when I was elected the class librarian at the age of seven and I spent many happy hours re-arranging all the books into a classification scheme I had devised. By the sixth form I was 10 years into the job and had free reign of the schools book budget to order all the new stock and probably spent more time in the library then I did in my classroom. At university I spent weekends and evenings shelving and filing, classifying and labelling the diverse collections of the university library. There really was no question that this would be my career path It was only I that refused to see it!
I did give in, in the end of course and had 15 wonderful years working in a variety of libraries before I had to leave it behind to come to train in
I tell you this story, not as an advert for the joys of a career in librarianship, though it is great and I do heartily recommend it to any of you considering your career path! but rather because when I think of title of this series I came to the conclusion that my journey with God has been conducted in rather the same way as my journey to my initial career. For me I was less about “seeking to walk with God” rather I was usually to be found running as swiftly as possible in the opposite direction to him, determinedly set on a path of my own choosing, ignoring the rather obvious signs on the way, rather then walking at God’s side where I belonged.
The passage from Matthew we had read to us tonight tells us of Jesus and his disciples walking to
Jesus’ question to this woman and his subsequent reply had real resonance for me as I reflected on my walk with God.
What do you want? To which his reply was - You don’t know what you are asking?
so true isn’t it – so often we go to God with a list of things we want, things that we are convinced are just what we need for everything to be just great – but the reality so often is that we “don’t know what we are asking for.”
I turn 39 next month – I first heard God call me to ordination when I was 26. I wasn’t joking when I said I ran in the opposite direction! Being a vicar was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. I had just finished my library training and had an interesting and well paid new post. I had just got my foot on the property ladder and was engrossed in DIY projects transforming my small flat into the home of my dreams. I was settled at church and amongst family and friends I had no intention of disturbing that, thank you very much! I knew exactly where my life was going and managed, most of the time, to convince myself that this was the path that I was supposed to be on, really it was. I was focused and driven, the childhood dreams of being Indiana Jones being replaced by a desire to one day run a library of my own, preferably something nice and prestigious like the British Library or the Bodleian,
The problem was, there was, as the years past this persistent little nagging sense that I wasn’t on the right road, that this was not the journey I should be taking.
And so we have Jesus’ second walk of tonight’s bible passage. The walk from
It came to a head in the summer of 2006 – I was approaching sheer exhaustion. I was so determined to walk the path that I believed was right for me, had put in so much effort to make it work I just couldn’t understand why God still seemed to want more – How could I give more – I had nothing left to give.
It was at this point that I found myself, through a curious set of circumstances, walking a prayer labyrinth. You may have come across such things before but for those of you that haven’t it’s an ancient way of Christian meditation that invites you to take a walk with God physically and prayerfully by following a complex set of intertwining pathways marked on the floor. During this walk for the first time in a long time I found myself rather then going to God with a list of all the things I needed him to do for me, that I was opening myself up to God to ask him “what do I need to do for you.”
The answer came so clear, he didn’t want more, he just wanted different – I was taken back to the day I accepted God as my saviour, I was put back in the chair I was sitting in then, I could feel and smell and hear that day so clearly – but now I could hear the additional commentary – “you gave me your life that day” – “Its mine now and I want it.”
I wish I could say I was gracious with my acquiescence. I wasn’t. I argued with God for nigh on 2 hours trying to counter each request with a perfectly good reason why not. But he persisted “you gave me your life” but….. “you gave me your life” It is mine, I want it.
In the end there were no more buts to be found. Exhausted I knew that from then on I needed to walk this different path, a new path that was mine alone but a path not decided by me.
The journey to being accepted to ordination is a strange one, not least because you, as the candidate, have virtually no say in the decisions being made. A long line of diocesan ordination directors, bishops, selectors and college admission officers are the ones that decide the course of your future. By the processes end I has this piece of A4 paper with a yes on it – a yes that would change my life forever and yet the reality was that my life had changed forever the year before – It changed when I finally allowed God to guide the route, to choose the path.
Just as the two beggar’s on the
I don’t know how well you know the Indiana Jones films but for those of you that do there is the famous scene in the film the “last Crusade” where the path that Indiana Jones is on leads him to the edge of a deep cavern. There is no way across and yet the map he has shows he is to step out. After much hesitation he does so only to realise that there is a bridge there painted in such a way as to be invisible until you are standing on it.
So in a bizarre way I did get to be Indiana Jones because each day now feels like that scene from the film. Each day I step out on the walk knowing that I am not sure where it is going to take me, but trusting that the path will continue underfoot.
It took me a long time, and wanderings up several cul-de-sacs for me to get onto this path but now that I am finally on it I know that it is the right journey for me, for no matter how hard it gets I know that God walks along it with me, and there can be no greater contentment then that.