I wasn't sure whether I should upload this post, as I know my family reads this blog and I don't want to worry them unduly, but this past couple of weeks has been particularly rough for me. Rev Godfrey Russell, our chaplain at Phase One college, would probably tell me I'm going through a bout of depression, and the way I felt on Thursday in particular would have given some merit to this statement.
So why was Thursday particularly bad? What was different? Well, nothing, really.
I'm still struggling with being separated from my family - words cannot express the extent to which I miss their companionship, fellowship, and presence. I feel like an incomplete person without them.
Then there's the whole uncertainty around my stationing for next year. The Bishops of our Connexion have just met in East London for three days discussing the stations for 2010, and I'm hoping to hear something more concrete once Bishop 'Musi Losaba returns to the office on Tuesday.
The problem with the whole College / Circuit "thing" that is causing so much turmoil, is not so much how it will impact me personally, but there's this little matter of getting my son into a school for next year, and many of the schools have already closed their 2010 applications!
I've also had an uphill battle with a couple of assignments of late - my severe lack of motivation has been making it difficult for me simply to get going. Thankfully I've got two out of three posted off, with the third just about ready to go, but it's been a slog of note.
My financial situation is also not the greatest it's ever been. Granted, I'm managing to pay the bills, and there's food on the table, but my wife's microwave oven blew up last week, and whereas before I would have simply gone out and bought her a new one without thinking too much about it, right now I simply don't have the money for it.
I even found myself doubting my call from God to the ministry. Admittedly - and I've been told this more than once by clergy and laity alike - one has to either be called by God or totally insane to enter full-time ministry, but some days I wonder if I'm really making any difference to people's lives.
Add to that a flat that is bloody freezing (especially with no-one to cuddle!) and a TV that's just died, and you can understand why I'm feeling a little shitty right now.
But then God reminds me of the many blessings that I have. My family may be away from me at the moment, but at least I HAVE a family! Going to SMMS next year is really NOT the worst thing that could happen to me - in fact, there are advantages to going to College as well, especially academically. There is also light at the end of the tunnel as far as the assignments are concerned - at least they're now in, and (hopefully, with a bit of grovelling on my part), the markers will be understanding and mark them. I have food on my table and a roof over my head, and so do my family. Bill (my Superintendent) has loaned me a heater, and I've chucked an extra blanket on the bed. Not having a TV is not the end of the world, especially considering some of the rubbish that is shown sometimes.
And this morning at our weekly prayer group meeting, I saw the most beautiful image of Jesus, affirming my call. The image was not one of "go", where one is sent out into the wild blue yonder to proclaim the Gospel, but rather one of "come", with a crowd of people standing at a slight distance and Jesus, with His arm across my shoulder, walking by my side as I prepared to minister to the people.
So why the title of this post? It started off with Bill singing the opening bars of this hymn in response to our frustration at (once again) having to play the waiting game concerning 2010. (My stationing next year affects him as much as it affects me, for if I go to SMMS no replacement will be sent because of the Phase One programme coming to an end this year. This will place a tremendous burden on his shoulders, particularly with regard to the ministry in the Northern Societies - not the ideal "final year" before he retires). But if one looks at the words of this hymn, it speaks of a deep and enduring confidence that no matter what happens, God will never leave us nor forsake us.
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.
Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—
Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide with me.
Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
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