Sometimes we can be exactly on the right road we are meant to be travelling on, when the surface of the road changes, or what was a clear run becomes congested with traffic and we begin to panic…We may even begin to doubt ourselves and wonder am I still on the right road?
Suddenly those brightly lit exit signs which we didn’t take notice of before, catch our attention, becoming an option and only add another layer of confusion and uncertainty. Those of you confident enough to drive in big cities, I’m sure would know what I mean.
This experience however, I believe directly parallels that of a spiritual experience we can go through as disciples of Jesus…and I am speaking from experience.
Over the past nine months I have gone through some major changes once again in my life, specifically getting engaged and married. A major change that I felt made me consider other options for ministry…
I was working full-time as a school chaplain and knew between my husband and myself I was the only one of us that could re-locate for work. Where he lived was also much more suitable for us as a whole family and it made me realise it would be best for me and the boys to relocate. Due to my commitment to ministry, we still considered living apart on some weekdays and travelling to be all together mid week and each weekend. However we knew as a couple in their 40s with teenage children this wouldn’t be sustainable.
Every time I looked online and spoke to people I kept hearing that chaplaincy in the city my husband lives in would not be an option. I looked into hospital chaplaincy, parish ministry, and courses but none of these options seemed right at this time for me. I did not know how things would work but I just knew these weren’t right. I did not have The Lord’s peace to pursue any of these options. With no real surety it came about that I began to consider returning to my previous occupation of teaching performing arts. This time however it would be different. This new venture would be a performing arts school that was completely Christian in all aspects. Christian morals, values and content would be a prominent feature. Although I had some reservations about opening a performing arts school again and had no chaplaincy work (as I resigned so we could all be together) the boys and I all moved.
When I moved I had no work for 2 months and although this was somewhat challenging as I kept looking and applying for work without success, I still had The Lord’s peace being sure that I actually needed a time of rest and this is what The Lord was providing me with at that moment…But as for what was next I still had no idea for sure!
I had heard from a local chaplain, school chaplaincy was impossible to get in this new city, months prior to moving, so when I saw a job in a nearby small country town I applied. The position was 3 days a week for six months, then in 2018 was to change down to 2 days. I thought, “Okay this could work and with 2 days next year in chaplaincy, I could perhaps teach performing arts on other days…”
Although I still didn’t have 100% surety and motivation to teach again, I decided to ‘test’ and see if this indeed was what I was meant to do next… People I spoke to seemed really excited about me running a Christian performing arts school. I had an offer of a building too. These things really did seem confirming. However I just couldn't shake the question, “Why am I going off the road of full-time school chaplaincy? Why would I go this far to veer off?” I was confused thinking, “I have my degree and a lot of valuable experience, so why would I become married and need to change this?”
I was however determined to be faithful to whatever I was being asked to do, or give up, so I pushed forward, all the time praying, with advertising for the performing arts school. My bank account got hacked and I felt awful, however again, I received a lot of ‘likes’ and the interest seemed confirming. This however was also alongside me beginning to have a wonderful ministry in my new school and the desire to engage in more chaplaincy and ministry. All I knew for certain was whatever The Lord’s path for me was, I would have His peace completely when on it!
I advertised through regular schools, waited and prayed. No calls came.
Again I felt confused.
So I continued to wait and pray and asked specifically for confirmation with calls to come.
No calls came.
Then my school’s principal spoke to me saying how happy they were with me and asked me if I could continue working for them for 3 days per week next year. My heart leapt inside and I said yes immediately.
Still no calls came. Somewhat confused and excited at the same time I decided to call my supervisor.
When I called I mentioned my school wanting me to stay on for 3 days next year and I also asked if there was any possibility of any school chaplaincy coming up locally in my city…
And then he said something along the lines of, “Well it just so happens…maybe this could work…what great timing…”
I have since met with this new local school and have been offered the position of being their school chaplain next year for 2 days a week. It was a great fit for both the school and me, and now I finally have The Lord’s peace…along with again having full-time ministry work.
I have cancelled the performing arts school endeavour and contacted the handful of people who had been interested. None of them have expressed concern the school is not going ahead, and all expressed their belief in the value of school chaplaincy.
Yet, it was a tough time.
I was indeed distracted and concerned by my change in circumstances and the brightly lit ‘exit signs’. And the truth is the exit paths weren’t ‘bad roads’...
2 bible stories which came to mind and have brought me comfort recently are Abraham and Isaac and David and Solomon.
The first was with Abraham when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac. God needed to be first, and Abraham needed to be obedient. Abraham was willing to give up a part of himself (his own flesh and blood son) in order to put The Lord first in His life. Through this experience I felt I needed to be willing to give up the ‘chaplaincy’ part of myself which I do love, in order to keep humble and The Lord as number one. This was a really tough experience for me but one I know helped my heart.
The second was when King David wanted to build the temple but The Lord said no it was for his son Solomon to do. You see, I believe having a Christian performing arts school is not wrong. I believe it is a wonderful ministry, yet I don’t believe it is what The Lord is asking me personally to do.
Discerning can be a rough time. No matter how much faith we have, it can be difficult waiting and processing.
My husband Richard and I over the last few months have begun a new Christian website called, ‘Study Scripture Today’ and I have published a comprehensive guide-type post there on discernment using the word ‘peace’ as an acronym. If you need clarity and help with discerning The Lord’s will and path for you feel free to check it out: 'How do I know God's will'.
P.S: So much for school chaplaincy being unattainable in this city! Yes, nothing is impossible with God!