I wanted, as usual, to write something specifically for those of you getting GCSE and A-Level results over the next couple of weeks. This year’s results will be unusual due to COVID-19, determined not by final exams but by a mixture of previous work, teacher judgement and algorithms. I understand that for many this will increase levels of anxiety and worry. This is probably not helped by the way that we have built up A Level results day into this one life changing event.
So, I wanted to encourage you a little by telling you something of my own story. GCSE results day for me was a mixture of relief and disappointment. Relief because I had not completely crashed and burned but had a decent set of results and would be able to continue to A-Levels. I had made my mind up at a careers fair about what I wanted to do after school, side by side was a solicitor’s stand and the one for Sheffield University. So that was that, no lengthy deliberations, no careful reasoning, I was going to Sheffield to read Law.
The Head of Sixth Form (Years 12-13), also my history teacher, wasn’t impressed. People from our school did not go to study law and certainly not middle of the road students like me. He told me that I needed to set my sights lower. I won’t tell you the career paths he suggested for fear of insulting people in those professions. I ignored him, applied to Universities, got my conditional offers and sat my exams. It turned out that I had got the best A-Level results at our school and to rub it in, was the first to get an A grade in History!
So, I went to Sheffield and studied Law. However, at some point in my 2nd year I realised that I did not want to be a solicitor. It was a very pragmatic decision. The economy had tanked (it was the early 90s) and the people in the years ahead of me were struggling to get jobs. I realised I would be up against not just my own peers but two years worth of graduates when competing for a training contract. I also knew that most of them would want it more than me.
So, I graduated and started looking for a job. One day, my mum spotted an advert in the local paper for a MSc in Manufacturing Management funded by the European Social fund. I thought “I’ve got nothing to lose” so I applied. The professor who interviewed me thought it would be a great experiment to stick non techy people in with engineers and scientists. The teaching part of the programme included engineering and science courses along with business, law and accountancy. The idea was that we could help each other through it. This then led to ten years working in the aerospace and defence industry as a manufacturing engineer and an Operations Manager. I had a lot of fun implementing new systems, training and coaching, leading teams and helping take an organisation through a major change programme.
However, God was prodding at my heart. As a youngster I had felt a possible call to Gospel ministry but at this stage it seemed a long way away. Then at a Keswick Convention I remember that there was a challenge about being called to service and being in floods of tears. However the time still wasn’t right. It was a few years later before a friend encouraged me to investigate Theological training further. In 2006 I headed off to Oak Hill. At that stage I wasn’t sure what lay the other side. Quite possibly I thought it might involve training others. It was during a summer placement at Halling Baptist Church that I realised I was meant to be in church based ministry and so we ended up in Bearwood.
Now, the fascinating thing is that even here in pastoral ministry, the opportunity has come up to help train and equip others for Gospel ministry, whether OMers, trainees with us or church planters.
As you can see, results day did not commit me to one specific path in life. You see there are two important reasons for that. First of all, life does not work like that, decisions we make may close down some options but that does not mean that door is closed forever. All the time new doors and new routes are opening up. Secondly, we know that God is sovereign and has a plan for our lives working all things together for the good of those who love him.