You meet plenty of people who have a plan for their lives and careers. I’m one of the people who never did. As a result, I have managed to see and do a huge variety of apparently random things, from washing up in a restaurant, to selling double glazing, to running a Cabinet minister’s office, through journalism, teaching, and working for the local council, to being a husband and father of a family, a charity trustee, and diplomat. And now, ordination.
I suppose I knew at the time that I was just taking what God sent. Because of course, although I didn’t have a plan, I am absolutely certain that He did, and that He has led me to where I am now. A cousin, herself a religious sister, said forty years ago that I was the member of the family most likely to have a vocation; I don’t think she was right by chance.
Looking back, and knowing that the diaconate is, purely and simply, service (that’s what the word means), the fact that so much of what I have done in the past has been service of one kind or another – and for a lot of the time, I was already called a (civil) servant – does make it look like a carefully planned rehearsal for what lies ahead. When I told my wife I was exploring becoming a deacon, her instant response was, “I thought you would do that.” She and God both knew something I didn’t.
During my time in formation, I spent a while studying and worshipping at St John’s, Wonersh. Over the altar, there is a large Latin inscription that says, “You didn’t choose me, I chose you.” That just about sums it up.
This is probably a good foundation for a deacon. It’s a ministry that can take many forms, and most deacons get used to being asked to do the unexpected. I am sure God will have some more surprises in store for me.
If anyone were to ask me for vocations advice, I could only build on my own experience and say that God is inevitably in the driving seat: so trust in Him, and embrace the adventure that comes to you.