When the collar doesn’t fit

I have been having a tough couple of weeks. Possibly my toughest couple of weeks so far. Which is bizarre, as I survived Christmas, I got through Easter and I also handled an MA deadline a week before I got married alongside working. So I’ve been asking myself, why now has the pressure got so much?

Fairly simple administrative tasks have been a huge effort.

Producing prayer trail across the Deanery ought to have been right up my street, but alas it seemed never to be accurate or finished and when it eventually was done, upon printing 250 of the things, I became aware of 5 mistakes. I daren’t look at it for fear of finding more.

Similarly, we’ve had 1000 ember cards printed, which ask people to pray for us in the run up to our Priesting. And on my side (Nathan’s is on the other), the year is wrong.

Every pastoral encounter seems to have been especially difficult. Things are complicated, messy, exhausting much more than usual.

I was feeling delighted at having been told to book my driving test a couple if weeks ago. I then had a slightly wobbly lesson (bloody parralel parks!) and my instructor then implied I should hold off for a bit. I’d stupidly told too many people about being told to book my driving test and I felt like a right idiot for having done so.

Feeling the heat turning up last week from all angles, and upon returning home from a meeting, I had a complete freak out at the thought of having a chat with the Bishop (the interview which will in fact determine whether I will be made a Priest next month or not) on the same day as holding another Bishop’s shepherds crook in a Mothers Union service (being Bishop’s Chaplain). ‘I just don’t want to do both those things on one day’ I tearfully said to Nathan. The tears continued as I listed all thing things which I needed to get done ‘it’s just too much’ I said, rather pathetically.

At a family party at the weekend I mixed just a bit too much and wished I hadn’t. I am aware of the upcoming Priesting and needed time to prepare for it, but felt like I wouldn’t get any.

What is wrong with me?! I wondered.

The morning after my tears to Nathan, I woke after an early night to bright sunshine. I had a lot to do still, and I felt fragile and bruised, but a bit more hopeful. I dressed in black skinny jeans and one of my wide cowl neck clerical shirts, ready to do an assembly in a different school for the first time. And then I couldn’t find the corresponding collar to put in said shirt. I went with a slimmer one, which looked a bit stupid but it would have to do.

‘How are you feeling today, love?’ asked Nathan. ‘A bit better’ I replied ‘but my collar isn’t fitting my shirt. I think this is a good metaphor for how I’m feeling this week. My collar doesn’t fit!’

Off he went and came back a minute later with a collar that did fit, which he had noticed after it had been discarded at some point. This is also a good metaphor. Nathan can find, see, say, work out, hold and recover things when I can’t. I said something similar in my wedding speech, and it still stands.

But it certainly sometimes seems like what is required is beyond me, and the collar doesn’t quite fit.

The thing is, there’s another big change coming. I’m going from a funerals-and-baptisms deacon who serves to being a bread-and-wine-and-weddings Priest as well! I’ve felt the pressure building for some time but the thing is, I didn’t expect a freak out this time. I’ve been working towards this step every day for nearly a year. I was trained for it for 2. I was discerning for 3 more years before that. So the question is why has this taken me by surprise?

I can normally handle administration hiccups, 2 or 3 big things in a day, pastoral meetings, housework, seeing Nathan enough and keeping up with my family, at least most of the time. But something about this season gives me Dejavu to this time last year. I was so nervous about moving, leaving home, ordination, a new job, last year. This change should be small in comparison to that, and therefore I should be able to handle it better. Yes? Apparently not.

If I have 2 passions, they are worship and weddings. I love to sing to God and connect with him. And I love all things weddings. I still pick out which dress I would theoretically have in every bridal shop window.

So I should be super hyped for being able to both lead communion services (a key point of worship as a church) and doing weddings. But I’m just terrified.

Communion, particularly, has been worrying me. So much that God had to have a little word with me:

Not your table, but my table.

The table around which I will lead people in sharing communion, the altar at which I will preside, is not mine. It is God’s. The invitation is his, the invention is his and the intention to meet in this way, is his. Not mine.

And the same goes for everything, I guess. Even the collar.

A friend sent me a quote recently about dog collars. The person writing said ‘when I put it on it means that I will not get overwhelmed by anything anyone tells me’. I responded with words I shan’t repeat. Utter nonsense. Sometimes I’m drowned by it. Sometimes I’m frustrated at people’s reactions to it. Sometimes it makes me frumpy and grumpy. Sometimes it makes me confident. Sometimes it opens the most useful of doors.

But maybe it’s not mine. In fact, I think it’s probably not mine. Like the table, it’s God’s.

But on the days when the collar doesn’t fit? Well I’ve got Nathan to find my misplaced pieces of white plastic (metaphorically & physically), and I’ve got God to remind me who is boss. Even though there is a scary change coming, as the song says, ‘You’ve never failed and you won’t stop now. I will call upon your name and keep my eyes above the waves. When oceans rise my soul will rest in your embrace. For I am yours and you are mine’.

4 Replies to “When the collar doesn’t fit”

  1. I hear you Poppy! Thanks for sharing your words and thoughts….it’s actually encouraging to see that I’m not the only one!! I (rather stupidly!) thought that it’d be easier (less emotional) this year, because our deaconing was amazing last year and we have been training in preparation for priesting, so all good…I thought! I find that I’m also making daft mistakes, feeling overwhelmed at times, and a tad emotional too! But then I remember that God has called us for this amazing role, and although we might feel tired, tested and challenged, He knows we can do this and walks with us every step of the way, and beyond! Itll be a pleasure to be priested (hopefully) with you, Nathan and everyone next month , as we take this next step in this amazing journey which God has called us for. Keeping everyone in my prayers and remember “all shall be well” for Our Gox is with us all xxx

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  2. “Thy way, not mine, O Lord” xxx Very weird, those are the words I found on my Great Uncle’s grave in Ypres and they reached out to me across the years, as I read your blog, Poppy. Still so relevant when life throws what it is wont to throw at us. (I still don’t know why it throws so many typos our way though when we are Good People, doing our Very Best!) xxxxx

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