Just back from another Vicar School weekend. Exhausted, inspired, so pleased to be home and completely in love with Jesus…
So here's the thing about Vicar School, there are people from lots of different parts of the Church of England, so the worship times (or services) are varied, cover different types of worship and are very different to the worship at my church. I have really struggled with this. I know it's needed and it's good to get a range of experience, I totally get that. We are all made in different ways and it's important that we can all worship in a way that we find most brings us closer to God - and so in that I know the styles of worship that I find help me feel closer to God. Now we could get into a whole debate about what is worship and whether it should be about us as individuals or about us as worshippers giving rather than receiving from God, but that's another conversation. So the point is, I've been struggling with worship at college and found it hard to engage.
So today then, I wasn't really expecting what happened. Which was: tears, snot (not pretty) and a deep realisation of Jesus' love for me. All with a bunch of people who I have known for a sum total of 3 months. Hashtag awkward…
So just as I turned to my neighbour and said 'gosh this service is going on forever' (and yes I know, judge me now, even vicars in training find services dull and hard work sometimes) that we began to sing the song 'How Deep the Fathers Love for Us'. I love this song but today it broke me. Or rather God broke me, through the song.
The reality of what Christ did for us is something that I think can only really be understood when the Holy Spirit works through us to gain a deeper level of understanding. I mean, lots of people hear the story of Jesus's death and resurrection without being touched by it. They can hear it as a tragic story or a waste of life, but the truth of it has to really reach into someones heart to be understood. When someone becomes a Christian there's always a first time when that really hits home but I think there are points along the journey of life when it is refreshed in a very real way, and today was one of those for me. Probably my arrogance at being annoyed by the service was the point at which God reached in and changed that. I was humbled and I needed to be.
As I sang the lines from the song 'ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers' and 'it was my sin that held him there…' I really felt that it was me, personally calling out in a mocking voice - and it was really, in mocking the length of the service I might as well have been saying 'Jesus I can't be bothered worshipping you this morning, it's boring worshipping you like this.' I literally had the sense of my sin as if I was banging the nails into Jesus hands myself.
Cue tears and desperate need to hold it together. Fail… just about held it together to receive communion but then the floodgates opened.
So at the start of this weekend I prayed that I just wanted to meet with Jesus. Study weekends have a lot of teaching and so they are pretty full on and although there are times set aside for worship, as explained above, I don't always find this helpful, so hence my prayer on Friday eve (and don't get me wrong the teaching was amazing and something I'm really looking forward to looking into further, blog to follow…!). So... right at the end of the weekend, when to be honest I was really just thinking about going home, that's when God answered my prayer.
So. What is it about Jesus that has made me turn my life (and my family's) around to go and train to be a Vicar? Well, exactly what happened to me this morning. The realisation that I and everyone else are the reason why Jesus died so horribly, but that he did that because of love. In that moment this morning, I saw a picture of Jesus on the cross with me banging a nail into his hand, and yet he just looked at me with the eyes of a loving Father, he looked at me in love, and with compassion. Broke my heart.
Jesus knows our pain, because he felt it himself on the cross. He carried all of our pain but he knows how it feels for each of us, as individuals.
I fail daily. I love Jesus but I get it so wrong regularly. But the thing is I try. I love Him and I try. And that is all I, or any of us need to do...