In a little over a week I will be giving my last sermon at St. Albert Alliance church.
When I started Faith Reflections in 2010 I knew I wanted to find a way to reflect in an ongoing way on the journey of faith. I remember sitting in the living room of my house in Poatina writing my very first reflection.
At the time I was feeling as though I had endured quite enough change, and in many ways Faith Reflections was an attempt to find my bearings. I was still reeling and trying to process all the events that had resulted in my Dad finishing as the leader of the mission movement I served with.
As I wrote, I found myself working with three friends, trying to hold the organization together across the world. I remember feeling overwhelmed but confident that we were going to be able to navigate all the complexity.
I really thought I knew what my future would be. I had a clear sense of calling and thought I had a clear sense of direction. Little did I know what lay ahead.
I had no clue that things would get so complicated in the mission organization I was working with that it would be right for us to pull back.
I had no clue that I would write a book that would be launched in the U.K.
I had no clue that 18 months later we would be sitting on a plane heading to Canada as a family.
I had no clue that I would start and graduate from a Master in Theological Studies course.
And I really had no clue that I would start work as a Pastor in Canada. At no point had I ever considered the possibility of serving in a church.
It was with this all in the background that I first stood on the podium at St. Albert Alliance church in August 2013, looking out at sea of faces, feeling a little daunted at the thought of getting to know so many people, and having a minor identity crisis every time someone called me. “Pastor Matt.”
I’m not sure what I would have done if I knew what was ahead of me when I wrote my first reflection in 2010. One of the insights that has driven my life is that all of us are uniquely created by God and there is a unique plan for the life of each and every one of us. This is a very important truth. Gordon Smith in is book Courage and Calling wrote
We need to thunder from our pulpits and celebrate at every turn in the life of the church that God is calling people into education, the arts, public office, business, engineering, medicine, the service professions – quite literally into every area and sector of human life. We need to proclaim this truth and celebrate it often because the older, unbiblical notion is so deeply embedded in our corporate consciousness. Further, we need to affirm that only those explicitly called to religious leadership should become pastors. Otherwise they fail to fulfill what they are really being called to do
I still believe this is true… and needs to be repeated over and over again, however I have learned that when it comes to discovering the calling that God has for you, it’s not so simple. I identify with Proverbs 16:9:
In their hearts humans plan their course,but the Lord establishes their steps
When I started the website I thought I knew the plan that God had for me. I thought I knew the trajectory of my life. I had no clue.
One of the authors who wrote most helpfully about stepping into your calling, OS Guinness, pointed out that the point of God’s calling on our lives is that it is God’s calling and not ours:
Both the arrogant and the despairing overlook what God alone must do. They forget the mystery at the heart of calling as well as identity. God calls and, just as we hear him but don’t see him on this earth, so we grow to become what he calls, even though we don’t see until heaven what he is calling us to become.
As I look back on the last decade there is no way I could have planned, or even would have wanted things to happen in the way they did. As I look back, however, I am grateful for the journey to this point.
I realize I am a very different person to the Matthew who was sitting on the couch and starting this website. I have grown in lots of different ways. I am freer and more confident. I have an even stronger sense of calling and I am looking forward to the next chapter.
The Apostle Paul was right when he said:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
God doesn’t promise to organize circumstances so they are easy or less painful. He does promise that the arc of your life will ultimately be good if you hang on to him in the midst of the complexity and pain of real life. This is not a light insight, but its true.
The last four years have been a gift. They have been a time of healing and change for me, and for us as a family.
I no longer have an identity crisis at the idea of being a pastor, and when I get up to give my final sermon in 8 days I will be looking into the eyes of many precious friends.
Again I am heading towards something I simply could not have imagined even 12 months ago.
As we arrive back in Hobart and at Citywide Baptist church, I do have some sense of what the future might hold, but I am also holding it much more lightly than I might have done seven years ago.
I know that God has a plan for my life, and that I will only be free to me as I walk in that plan, however I also know that my understanding of that plan is extremely limited and it will only ultimately make sense on the other side of eternity.
In the meantime I will continue to write these reflections and will, hopefully, continue to grow as a person and as a follower of Jesus.