It’s now 2 years since I became Rector here, but it had been a tough decision to move. I wanted to stay in Bedfordshire, where my boys had been born, where our friends and family were close by, and where I had a church I loved. Curates are always meant to move on, so that they broaden and deepen their experience as priests, but I was given the opportunity to stay put – such a strong temptation, to stick with what was familiar and comfortable.
My husband, thankfully, felt very differently. He’d had enough of a job whose pressures were crushing him. He longed for a new life, so for him a move offered endless possibility while I, who have always hated change, just feared all the losses which it entailed.
Now, 2 years on, I know that in letting go of what I already had, I gained so much more. 6 churches in place of 1! Yes, but 6 churches run by kind, generous, faithful and interesting people; exciting new opportunities for my sons, a new home with room to plant trees and grow new things; and so much to learn about and enjoy.
If I had tried to save my old life, to hang on desperately to life as it already was, I would have found none of this.
Perhaps you can think of an echoing story, a time you have resisted change – not wanting to change school, move house, leave a job, retire – and yet in losing your old life you found something you hadn’t expected, something different, richer.
Imagine your hands gripping on to something, fists clenched, holding tight. If I tried to give you something, you couldn’t receive it; but if you uncurl your hands and open up your palms, though some things might fall away, slipping through your fingers, you’d be ready for new things to take their place. This is how I make sense of some famous words of Jesus: ‘Those who want to save their life will lose it. Those who lose their life for my sake will find it.’
When alone, I often pray with that gesture of open hands, especially at times when I’m anxious about the future or uncertain of what step to take next; but it also helps to remember those past times when what seemed a terrifying prospect became a very positive present.
Revd Kate McFarlane