This time next week I will be preparing to go to the William Booth College for my reacceptance conference.
How do I feel?
I feel nervous, humbled, excited, scared – all of these things. Over the next seven days these feelings will increase in their intensity.
Why do I feel like this? Why am I not calmly resting in the presence of God? Why am I not serenely surrendered to the fact that whatever happens will be his will?
The Salvation Army is not my hobby it is my life. I was not born to speak up for, or out to, the wider church – my ministry is completely wound up in The Salvation Army.
When (if?) I get my rank back and I am able to literally give every minute to the Salvation War then I will enthusiastically yield myself, allowing God to spend me in any way he sees fit.
In the meantime, I get days like today, days when the frontline seems so far away. Days of doubt, days when my enthusiasm and energy temporarily lose their ongoing battle with the cry for balance, thought and reflection.
In truth I am doing as much as I can, even on a practical front I am content to describe myself as ‘a doer’. There is nothing in my life which is not already given over and my commitment to loving the lost is real and has a tangible impact upon myself and my family. Yet this is only the beginning of the beginning, something unbelievable is yet to come.
So why do I have this ever increasing anxiety about next week? Mainly because I don’t believe I have it within me to present a toned down impression to the panel. What they see is what they will get, what they hear is what I will say and I don’t think it would be right or proper to try and present to them some ‘scrubbed up’ version of what I am.
So what will they see?
They will see a man who lives ever close to tears, tears that fall for oh so many reasons: tears for my sin, tears for the wasted years, thankful tears for God’s forgiveness, and tears of absolute joy at his closeness to me, tears for the lost, tears for the Army’s sin, tears for the apathy and callous state of many who call themselves Salvationists. Will I cry next week? Almost definitely – if not in public I will cry in private – how can I pray without tears?
They will see a man who can see no bounds in the extent of ultimate Christian commitment, what others see as extreme he sees as the minimum. They will see a man who would willingly take up his post unsalaried if that were required. A man who would be quite happy to start with nothing if that is the best way to bring God glory.
They will see a man who has no time for the aristocratic autocracy of The Salvation Army. A man desperate to be led, but only by those who want to lead! A man who has no time for the exclusive cliques which are being established within the Army – where access is determined by academic qualification, name, heritage, appointment or (God forbid) musical ability. They will see a man who will salute and go, but will rebel and revolt if God is not evident in the command structure, a soldier who will always obey the ‘lawful commands’ of his leaders.
They will see a man with a genuine love for those who the world considers unimportant, a man far more at home with ‘sinners’ than with those who claim to seek their Salvation. They will see a man who simply can’t stay silent when the unloved and unwanted are rejected or quickly packed off to a nearby hostel or worse sent on their way with a food parcel and a ‘God bless’.
They will see a man who can fall from extreme confidence to absolute doubt in seconds and then just as quickly re-ascend.
If they allow me to come back into harness then they will see one who pulls as hard as any other and who constantly champs at the bit.
They will see a humble man, who doesn’t believe that he is worthy of another chance and who will be overcome if that chance is ever given.
They will see a man who will be completely unreserved and unrestrained in his service and who will expect to see the same level of commitment in those around him.
In the meantime, I wait, I serve as a local government Officer, I support my wife (also my CO!), I take every opportunity that comes my way to extend God’s kingdom, I ask daily that God would be glorified in my life!
Saviour, if my feet have faltered
On the pathway of the cross,
If my purposes have altered
Or my gold be mixed with dross,
O forbid me not thy service,
Keep me yet in thy employ.
Pass me through a sterner cleansing
If I may but give thee joy!
All my work is for the Master,
He is all my heart's desire;
O that he may count me faithful
In the day that tries by fire!