It’s 1995 and I’m in a room with half a dozen other people. We all have one thing in common. One day we would like to be Prime Minister and with the arrogance of youth we each believer that we uniquely have the ability to make that dream come true.
Move forward to 2021 and as far as I’m aware, only one of those people is even theoretically still in the race. Others have dropped out along the way. For me, it happened early as I began to think through future options and priorities. First of all I chose not to pursue a legal career and then I chose to opt out of politics. The latter was because I could not in good conscience participate in many of the behaviours and attitudes that seemed to be required for any political party if you were to get on. The other was that I already had a sense at that stage that there might be a future call to Gospel ministry. At that stage it wasn’t a definite but I took the view that keeping some doors ajar meant firmly closing others.
Yet, the possibility of getting to be a cabinet minister one day, then leader of the opposition ad then Prime Minister was not far-fetched or unrealistic for me. I held a senior role in student politics and had access to senior politicians, there were people committed to mentoring me. When I insisted to peers that I was leaving politics for good they were incredulous. One peer and budding rival stated “I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of you in politics Dave.” Well at this point in time, it looks like his assessment was wrong. I can’t see anything changing that.
So why do I? say that I’m glad not to be in Boris or Keir’s shoes? Well perhaps it is because I wouldn’t want to be having to face the particular circumstances they are facing right now. Well, no-one envies the position either man is in at the moment, however if you read my blog or know a little of me, then you’ll pick up that trying to understand and answer the types of questions those men are facing in a crisis right now is actually the sort of thing that gets my adrenalin going and actually, whatever they may claim in public, everyone with political ambitions in private must admit to themselves that they do want to be in the hot-seat. They’d rather face the crisis, believing that they have a calling to lead and to help than to watch from the side lines. So, no, that isn’t it.
Perhaps it is that my political views have changed? Well, again, “no” and that’s why I included both Keir and Boris in the title. If your views change but your ambitions don’t then changing party early in life isn’t a complete show stopper. Incidentally, people who have known me a long time will know which party I belonged to. I’m not stating it here, not because it’s a secret but because I don’t want that to distract from the focus of this article that applies across the political spectrum. So, yes my views have changed over the years. I’ve switched positions on some issues, softened my position on some and hardened it on others. That’s natural as our views mature and we gain experience and access to new information. In my case, I could not in good conscience vote for the party I was a member of as a young person. Whether or not the “me” of yesteryear would join that party as it is today, the “me” of now probably would not have joined the party of then. But, no, that’s not the reason.
So what is the reason? It is very simply this. I want to go back to my point earlier that I was aware that at some point I realised that I might find myself called into Gospel ministry and I wanted to be ready for that. So here I am today, 25 years on from handing in my resignation as a party member and 15 years on from handing in my resignation from a comfortable career which brought its own ambitions and opportunities. Why? Well Jim Elliot once said
“It is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot earn.”
The reason I am happy not to be living those political dreams is that in Christ and in my calling to follow him wherever he leads, I’ve found the pearl of great price. I’ve discovered that there is something -and with it some things -that take greater priority than any of my prior hopes and dreams. I’ve discovered the need to die to my own ambitions so that I may live for Christ.
This does not mean that everyone must give up on “secular” plans and quit their jobs to become pastors or missionaries. What God calls each of us to is equally valid, equally holy. Some men and women will be called into the political sphere. I am glad that there are Christians in the corridors of power either exercising power in line with their faith or speaking truth to power. However, the point remains that for each of us there comes a point where we need to cling tightly to Christ and that means holding lightly to other things, when we need to be willing to let our priorities and ambitions die, when we need to discover that there is something of greatest importance that must be the first priority in our lives.