Sunday, 28 April 2013

When your hero wants to quit

Tonight saw the return to church of one of my favourite sermon givers. When I hear him speak I feel a deep strength of conviction that that is exactly how I want to communicate one day - with integrity, skill and passion but most of all with real honesty. What I love about this guy is that he tells you exactly as it is, for good or for bad, even if that means telling you exactly how it is with him when I'm sure he'd rather not do. Even to the point where today he told us that, on his recent sabbatical, he had seriously considered packing up being a Priest, after twenty years of ministry, and started mentally filling through alternative occupations.

It was amazing and shocking to hear this from someone I respect and look up to so much, whose books I have on my shelf and whose sermons had a vital hand in getting me into ministry in the first place, and even more so when I heard his reason. With some time away from work, memories of all the times a sermon had misfired or he'd said the wrong thing came back to haunt him to the point where he decided he would never speak again. Never mind all the many, many times he had encouraged, inspired and moved people on to better, more fulfilled lives. No, the soundtrack that ran through his mind was one of doubt and blame and it nearly drove him out of the place where he is utterly meant to be.

I don't know about you but I've got one of those soundtracks of my own. It is so easy to remember the times you got it wrong and to let those moments dominate to the detriment of the many more times that taking that risk was well worth it. The more I write and speak the more I appreciate what a risky business it is. The commenter who calls you ignorant when you speak from your heart or the talk where you stumbled over your words and feel the flush of embarrassment of just not being able to say what you really want to. Suddenly this is the reality, every other moment of success and support fades away into the distance under the neon, day glow flashing critique that you just can't seem to shake. That you fear, after all, might be the one thing that has been said that is really true.

When someone so inspirational to me said he wanted to quit because of these things I wanted to stand up and yell 'Never, ever, do that!' and yet at the same time to hear that even someone who I deem so very competent has the same fears as I do gave me a sudden sense of release. Perhaps this is just how we are and, as he advised, we all need to adjust how we remember. We all need to paint the positives in neon too and let the negatives sits in perspective for a while in the company of the things we get right.

I spent so very long looking for 'my thing' in life that I never really considered how tricky it can be to persist in it. To keep speaking when you would rather be silent, to put yourself out there when you'd rather hide. But bravery has its rewards and sometimes we don't even know it. Sometimes the reward is in someone else's life that is enhanced and encouraged in a way we may never even know or understand.
As for me, I'm going send an email tonight to add my day glow positive sign to the mix for my favourite priest and sermon giver because quite frankly I think he ought to know. And the next time I feel my knees begin to quake at the thought of stepping out there into the unknown I'll remember that I'm not the only one and that little act of bravery might have all kinds of consequences that I will never know.


  1. I love this. What a revelation and an encouragement to know that even those we esteem most highly have those moments of wondering if they made a big mistake. This - "We all need to paint the positives in neon too and let the negatives sits in perspective for a while in the company of the things we get right" is something I need to learn to do better. And yey for being brave!

    1. Thanks so much Fiona. It really did make me stop and think. As I've been thinking about it today it has made me respect that kind of honesty even more. I don't think I'll ever forget it.

      Thanks for commenting! :)

  2. A super post, Nicola. After a quarter-century of preaching, i still feel a quiver of nervousness or even fear before every sermon and expect I always shall. It's a huge privilege but also a huge challenge to be allowed to preach and it's very easy for it not to go as you hope and pray it will. I know just what your priest was talking about. I just have to pray that God will take my inadequate words and use them for his purposes.

    1. Hi Perpetua, thanks for commenting! Yes, that nervous buzz probably never really goes away does it? I'm really working on coming out of myself more when speaking. If only I could just blog my sermons!! Standing and delivering them is where I currently come a bit unstuck, but hey ho, it is early days and I know where I want to get to so that is half the battle!