A Journey

 

In a sense, that characterises my journey to and through faith. There are some for whom Christian commitment brings a massive and radical life-change. Others experience a gradual deepening of understanding and commitment. For me it seems to be a series of step changes. I go along quite happily where I am for a while and then something forces me up to the next rung or step. Or sometimes it’s just a sudden realisation that I’ve taken that step and I’m looking out with a slightly different view.

All this time I was working in the electronics industry, moving from technician to engineer to senior engineer and, latterly, to principal engineer. Although I worked for the same company, we were under different ownership several times. I joke that I worked for three different companies and didn’t move desks once. It’s not too far from the truth. I never left, just ended up with new owners. From relatively early on, our ownership changed from UK to US companies and, if there’s one thing that drives a US company, it’s the ‘bottom line’. ‘Restructuring’ (their euphemism for redundancies) became a regular, 6-month, occurrence. The team I worked for became smaller and smaller until we were all doing several jobs including our own ‘specialisms’.

Every few years I would get a bit ‘twitchy’, thinking it might be time to move on to something new, but either a new project came along or I got a promotion or new responsibilities and that get me happy for a while. Just before I left, I was in a fairly senior position, with a small team working for me, travelling regularly to customers and our offices throughout Europe. We were making inroads to China and the far east and it looked likely that I would have to support our products there too. I was also earning a lot more money than I expect I’ll see as a minister.

But it didn’t seem enough. Not in the sense of wanting more money or more travel or more responsibility. Rather there was a sense of dissatisfaction and the feeling that it wasn’t what I should be doing any more. In church I was also ‘progressing’. I had taken over running the youth club when Bryan left. I took over organising the summer and Easter missions. I had become an elder. I had even led services, both youth services and our elders’ services.

Being heavily involved in youthwork, it seemed logical to consider whether that was where I was being drawn to. I looked at the possibility of going into full-time youthwork. It didn’t ‘feel’ right. I considered teaching but, again, it didn’t feel like the right thing. A number of people asked if I had considered going into the ministry and I always emphatically said, “No way.” I had a list of reasons, a long list of reasons, why that would never happen.

Then, one evening, after youth club, I was having a perfectly innocuous conversation with some other youth leaders. As we were speaking about things that were coming up for each of us, it struck me that one thing that I had just agreed to do was the last thing on my very long list of objections. Over a period of a couple of years, each one of them had been ticked off as “done”. A very scary moment followed. I could choose to extend my list or see where accepting it as done might take me. A very late-night email to Bryan resulted in an early Saturday phone call which confused my wife – I hadn’t spoken to her about it and wanted a ‘Godly’ perspective (but Bryan would do – joking). After much talking and explanation and with my wife’s support, I started on the Church of Scotland’s enquiry process.

So, I had a grand plan. I would take a year to save up so I could afford to be a student again. I would go through the CofS’s process and I’d go to uni, get a degree and become a minister. Seemed very simple. If only I’d known then what I know now, I suspect I’d still be an engineer (and much richer).

My savings weren’t exactly growing and time was marching on and all the while I had this sense of needing to get a move on and leave work sooner rather than later. I kept resisting it, but the pressure to ‘step out’ kept growing until I decided that I would apply to uni early and just see what happened. I hadn’t actually done anything practical, merely made the mental decision, when one of those 6-month cycles came round at work. My team wasn’t affected by restructuring but the company always gave consideration to volunteers. I talked it over with my wife, applied and 3 weeks later was walking out the door with more money than I could have saved in 2 years but no uni place and an uncertain future at the hands of the CofS.

I quickly banged in an application to Glasgow and Edinburgh (my preferred choice). It was rushed because we were about to go on our family holiday. When we returned, I had an unconditional acceptance from Edinburgh. Glasgow never did reply. I was a student again and had the strange feeling that I had stepped on to a fast-moving walkway that was travelling in a direction that I didn’t have any control over.

  2 Responses to “A Journey”

  1. Not dull and ordinary, but inspired. So thank you for sharing your journey so far. It’s made me make some sense of mine!

  2. Somehow came across your blog while looking for the words for ‘One more step along the road I go’. Thanks for the story of your faith journey so far. It’s reminded me that God’s not finished with me yet, and has purposes that I don’t know about yet.

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