It had been six years of preparation, prayer, process, training, and now I was looking at a pregnancy test—thrilled and excited by the gift of God that it revealed but utterly confused about what it meant for all my other senses of calling.
I was in my final year of theological training and had just finalised plans to plant a base for missional communities in North Coventry the following summer. There was a huge sense of excitement, privilege and blessing, as well as the awesome gift of pregnancy. In theory these were all the things I wanted and dreamed of and prayed for – except I felt so sick I could barely concentrate. I was incredibly conflicted about how it would all make sense and fit together.
Over the last two years I have been on the steep learning curve of a first time mum. I have learnt that confusion is not a sign of failure. Confusion about the way ahead is an expected part of our story.
The earliest disciples stood at the cross and experienced great uncertainty about what was happening.
Imagine yourself among the earliest of Jesus’ disciples. Following Jesus has given you a new identity and purpose. You have joined an extended community that has an excitement about it. And then there is the journey to Jerusalem. You follow expecting that this will be a key moment. You are attempting to follow Jesus and the journey takes you outside of the city walls to a cross. As you stand and watch you know not what lies ahead.
What strikes me about the women who stood at the cross is that as they experienced immense pain and confusion they continued to stand. To stand at the cross while others had hidden or fled. Why did they stand there? I wonder if they felt as if there was nowhere else to stand. They had thrown their lot in with Jesus; where else would they have been?
Standing in a place of uncertainty is not a sign of failure but part of our story, part of the route from death to God’s resurrection life. When I am unclear of how to work out my own sense of calling I choose to stand in the confusion and look for God’s life.
Attempting to follow Jesus has led me to this place, and it is this that makes me realise I know of nowhere else to stand. I need not feel guilty about how I feel; I need not look for a less confusing place to stand. I choose to find ways to look for signs of what God will do in this place.
From among those female disciples who were standing at the cross, the two Marys follow Jesus to the tomb and, waiting, standing in this place, a woman becomes privileged to be the very first witness of the resurrection.
Two years on from discovering that I was pregnant, I have a wonderful adventurer of a toddler. I also have the joy of being part of a growing but fragile community planted in the estate we moved to. I am still on a steep learning curve of what it means to have my toddler with me while living out my calling as a leader. But I know that confusion is not to be feared. There will be moments when we follow Jesus and it takes us to a place that makes little sense, where life is not what we had expected.
And so I stand knowing that my calling has and will take me to places of uncertainty.
I stand embracing the disciplines that have held me so far on the journey; of daily prayer, of thankfulness and weekly rest.
I stand looking each day for an opportunity to discover the unexpected route forward. For me that means each day I try to find one small way to live out my vocation as a mum and as a leader. It means looking creatively at my diary and finding appropriate opportunities to take my daughter with me. It means taking small steps of familiarising her with venues that I work in so she experiences them as safe places. Sometimes it means frantic last-minute nappy changes immediately before I get up to speak, but it also means connecting with others in a deeper and more real way. It means that with a toddler it is completely acceptable to talk to strangers about anything. It means I am beginning to step towards a new and unexpected route forward.
Where are the areas of uncertainty and what are the familiar disciplines in your life that will help you stand? Where are the places that you can look for God to do the unexpected?