On Monday, I met my friend E for a drink and a chat, but came away with a little more than I’d bargained for. E is a few years behind me in medical school and we first met through the university windband, when he joined as a first year three years ago, the year I was band’s president. After that, we crossed paths again when we both started at the same church at around the same time, and with a similar amount of uncertainty (ie a lot), and this was when we got to know each other more on a par, as with band, I’d always been ‘in charge’ and leading things, and he’d always been following. We’re very different in some ways, and after a hard year for both of us (he is resitting a year after failing a lot of exams before finally being diagnosed with dyslexia) I really value his friendship.
We were discussing what we’ve been doing in the last few months and I was talking about the mentoring scheme I’m heading up and what’s happening with the choir and hospital volunteer scheme I founded two years ago, and he asked me why I’ve not ended up ‘in charge’ of anything at church when I seem to fall into leadership in most other things I do. And I replied that I’ve never really thought that I’m able to lead, or gifted in leadership, or however you want to put it – in ‘church life’ – that I’m always a bit unsure of what part I’m supposed to play, what space I’m supposed to stand in.
This lead to what I’m going to call ‘affectionately being completely shot down.’
E basically asked me if I honestly thought that God’s gifts were different depending on whether I was standing in church or somewhere ‘secular’, and then (somewhat amusingly) went a bit Lord Kitchener on me (your church needs YOU! Your God needs YOU!) and told me to step up and stop drawing a line in the sand, so to speak, between the parts of my life that are lived in church, and the rest of my time, where my faith is perhaps not quite as much on show.
All I could really say was ‘oh’. The phrase ‘you got told’ comes to mind.
He’s right in a lot of ways. I do have a tendancy to separate things out and think that I’m not really that useful to any church and that I don’t have any gifts, that in the world of 1 Corinthians, I’m one of the less vital, more silent, body parts, whereas it’s fairly true that outwith that, I feel confident in leadership roles (I even got an award from the university for it once) and like filling gaps I see and changing things I think need changing. I’m a project person – I’ve always got some scheme on the way, whether it’s getting the patient library together, or currently, this mentoring thing. It just doesn’t always carry over to who I am ‘at church’. Sometimes I fall back into thinking that I’m just kind of gatecrashing the party – that everyone else has an invite and a reason to be there, whereas I’ve just snuck in through the back door, and am listening in the dark at the back, and God can’t be bothered to chuck me out.
Part of this is probably down to the last year, when standing at the back of a service was as much as (and sometimes more than) I could handle, and I’ve been conscious as I recover that I shouldn’t overfill my time or take on too much (not that I’m managing this well at all). Another obstacle is that until this year, I just wasn’t stable enough in my faith to feel as though I could really be that involved, or active in things – as Ulysses Grant once said, you can’t blow an uncertain trumpet. I didn’t really comfortable spreading a gospel I wasn’t that sure of. I didn’t really want to infect anyone else with my perpetual, and often consuming, doubt. I didn’t feel ‘qualified’ or ‘capable’ or ‘allowed’ to be an active Christian – I had too many hours still to spend working things out. I thought I was better suited to sitting quietly at the back and trying not to lose my place in the hymnbook. My trumpet was certainly uncertain for quite a while.
Now however, talking with E made me remember that everything I am comes from God, and that I need to step up more and contribute my share to the kingdom we’re all trying to build. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about where I fit and what I feel called to change, so this conversation was certainly timely. I’ve got a feeling that the Bible study some friends and I are starting might be the start of a more well defined path for me, but only time will tell, at the end of the day.
And in other news, the GP let me stitch someone’s head cut today. Sorry if you’re squeamish, but it was AWESOME. The things that make me happy…..