Thank you for the long-awaited news that my extension period for local preaching has been approved.
I have heard at least three strong calls from God which I have tried to do my best to follow. One is to become a Local Preacher. One was to adopt my two boys and to provide for them a loving and supportive home and family throughout their lives, regardless of the trials and tribulations that may cause. And one was to take the job that was offered to me here at xxxxxxxxxxxxx.
When I heard the call to be a Local Preacher, I fought it long and hard and found myself in many an argument with God about the fact that I had so many demands upon me and didn’t know how I could do it with the time available. God’s response was clear: “Trust me”. I took that step of faith and, though sometimes I struggle really hard to see how God can have the faith in me to believe me capable of bearing some of the burdens I find myself dealing with, fundamentally I do trust Him that if it is truly where He wants me to be and what He wants me to do, then it will be possible.
When your emails arrived, my stress levels did not decrease, despite me feeling relieved (but not surprised) that the extension was finally through. Rather, they increased! But through thought and prayer and consideration I have come to this conclusion.
I cannot do three years’ worth of work in one year*, and especially not in a year when I am supporting one son through a trial for a second unbelievably serious offense and the other son through a sense of depression, anger and a sense of abandonment leading to the need for professional intervention. I am struggling with finances, health, tiredness, and adapting to a very demanding shift pattern, not to mention blood pressure of utterly ridiculous proportions. There is nothing that I can drop to lower the stress or to increase the available time for study (apart from dropping “me-time” which I think is equally important). Therefore it is my decision that I will pace the work over three years, requesting an extension annually. I will complete it within the three years, of that I am determined. The rest I will leave to God and to the decision making panel. I am called to be a Local Preacher, of that I have no doubt. I do not believe I am called to neglect my sons, my work, or my health, and do I believe utterly that when God promised that I could trust in him, that was a promise on which I could rely, even when it doesn’t seem very tangible. So I will do what I can, but will not put myself under pressure to complete more than I am able to and thus damage my ability to give to my sons the support that they need. If this means that the Methodist Church decides not to continue to support me in answering my call to preach, then that is the risk I have to take.
My plan is now to tackle the next unit and come back to the one I have been struggling with afterwards. I am just waiting to hear what demands on my annual leave my son’s trial is likely to take – that will enable me then to set a realistic time-scale. I will certainly have this section ready to submit for the next round (i.e. by September) and am determined that if my health allows it, I will be well underway with the next section. But setting actual deadlines is not something I feel would be helpful to me at the moment when I’m spending nights awake alongside a distraught 12-year-old and then doing long shifts at work without a break, while waiting for news on how my eldest son is going to plead. I can’t study when Smudgelet is home, I can’t write to my eldest or make phone calls concerning him when Smudgelet is home, It’s even difficult to do housework when Smudgelet is home because he’s so needful of my attention at the moment and having to spend long periods of his time without me. So my two mornings a week are currently my only real opportunity to do anything and, to be honest, I am spending a fair bit of that time asleep! So rather than set short-term deadlines, my aim is to complete a year’s work in a year – with fallow times and industrious times – and to leave the decision making to God and the Methodist Church when the time comes to request another extension. If they say no, then I will have done what I could and will have benefited from my learning and hopefully made a positive contribution to God’s work within the church and the church will be one Local Preacher less. And it won’t thwart God’s plans, I’m sure, because He generally seems to have something up His sleeve.
*They only grant one year at a time, and need very exceptional circumstances to grant a second one. My tutor and Superintendant Minister on the Isle of Wight reckoned that, with my Dad’s illness and my son’s problems, I’d actually only managed to work for two years’ worth out of the five allowed, which about tallies with my estimate. The remaining work is definitely three years’ worth at my current time availability. I could do it in a year if I were without ties and working an ordinary job.