by Revd Canon William Challis, Diocesan Director of Ordinands
…the easy response would be that the answer is never ‘no’ but rather, ‘Well, it’s not this, but it is something else and we need to keep working to discover what God is calling you to.’
Not everyone who explores a calling to some sort of Christian Ministry receives the answer ‘yes’ – in fact, part of our job in the Ministry Team of the Diocese is to make sure that we say ‘yes’ to the right people, which inevitably means saying some sort of ‘no’ to others. However, we also need to remember that no one who offers themselves for any form of recognised Christian Ministry can possibly do so without making a huge commitment and considerable emotional investment, with the result that a conclusion that this is not right may feel like a rejection.
So, if the answer is ‘no,’ we all need to be seeking and offering as much support as we do to those for whom the answer is ‘yes.’ The process of seeking God’s will is never an individualistic one, but it involves the Body of Christ, who possess the wisdom, spiritual intelligence and listening skills that we need to tap into. When we seek the wisdom available within that Body, we discover the good thing God has in store for us, even though that is not the good thing we thought we were called to in the first place. We live in a world where we can easily feel that we are ‘failures’ because something we hoped for didn’t work out – the stories around A Level results Day only underline this! But there are no failures in the Body of Christ, only a massive amount of support and care and help, so we may need to swallow our fear of being branded a failure, and not be afraid to ask!
"God is present and at work even in those frustrating times when we can’t see what is going on and what we are called to – but God does know best."
Of course, the issue is often one of timing – the answer may seem to be ‘no’ now but, a little way down the line, the answer may well be ‘yes’ – at least one priest in our Diocese went back to a selection conference 42 years after his first one – others have said to me that the process of reaching the point of being able to respond fully to God’s calling has taken twenty years or so – time waited is not time wasted if it becomes a time of growing and maturing in Christ. And, whilst I firmly believe that God never plays tricks on us, he may be testing our willingness to obey in readiness for the next thing he wants to drop in front of us.
There are, of course, times in the Bible when God says ‘no and times when he says ‘wait’ – study Acts 16-17 where all sorts of doors close for Paul and his companions in ministry, but other doors open in God’s good timing. That might help us to see that God is present and at work even in those frustrating times when we can’t see what is going on and what we are called to – but God does know best.