Terry Jacks wrote the early 1970’s pop song ‘We had joy we had fun, we had seasons in the sun……………..’
Go on,if your old enough, have a quick sing………….okay that’s enough!
And, so as I approach a new season in my life, leaving theological college and moving into curacy, how do I feel?
Well, very different to when I went to Cuddesdon. I am grateful to Cuddesdon, I have learnt so much, experienced so much and, met many wonderful people. But has it been a season in the sun? Not exactly. It’s been more autumn, winter and, now spring.
Perhaps this is what two years of formation is meant to be?
I can now appreciate what it means to experience autumn. For at Cuddesdon a lot of the old certainties that got me through many of my previous experiences were stripped away and, core beliefs were placed under the theological microscope. I began to feel like a truculent fifth former! An internal battle raged as I searched for ‘the’ right answers. My tolerance for ambiguity was at an all time low.
Autumn gave way to a winter of discontent – a long and bleak midwinter; a period in which I felt I knew nothing and, to be frank, where a better future seemed out of reach. The stripping away seemed less severe, but, where, oh where,was the new growth?
But, now six weeks before leaving has it all been worth it, is it becoming a season in the sun, has, spring finally arrived?
Yes, yes, and, yes again!
In reverse order:
it has been worth it because it is my vocation and my calling.
Is it a season in the sun? Well, its starting to feel both more hopeful and, less confrontational as I have learnt that to a very large extent my life is shaped simply through inhabiting a mystery in which I do not need to know whose right and whose wrong.
Has spring arrived? Yes, because I have been given glimpses of my future and it has felt good.
1 Corinthians has become a huge encouragement. St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, 51-55, intrigues his audience by saying ‘now I am going to tell you a mystery‘ the passage ends with the ultimate expressions of Christian hope and victory, ‘death where is your victory, death where is your sting.’ Earlier in the letter (1 Corinthians 11, 23-29), in his own reflection on the Eucharist, Paul’s opening gambit is ‘this is the tradition I received from the Lord.’ (n.b. Paul’s only claim in relation to the Eucharist is that it is tradition received directly from the Lord, he is not remotely concerned with how or why it works – can we treat it in the same way?)
And so as I enter into a new season, I need to remind myself to enter fully into the ‘mystery of faith,’ handed down through a ‘tradition received from the Lord,’ and to spend far less time worrying about whose right and wrong. Can I, again with St. Paul, accept that ‘now I know in part,’ whilst hoping that ‘then I will Know in full,’ (1 Corinthians 13, 12).
I think that it is through this process that winter gives way to spring.