When I was in my teens living in Baltimore, I was very involved in the Episcopal Church. At that time, I felt called to be ordained, and my bishop told me that after I finished undergraduate studies, he would recommend me to seminary. But while still in university, I began to wonder whether another vocation might be more suitable. So, instead, I took up teaching and began on what my children call my “ADHD career path,” which makes sense since I was long ago diagnosed with ADHD.
Through the years that followed, I was a teacher, a lawyer, a small business owner, and a government bureaucrat. Each choice was satisfying in some ways but not completely right for me. Each time I changed careers, I heard a small voice in my head asking if “now was the time?” And each time, I responded that there was some reason for me to not be a priest.
During these years, my family had been attending a church from another denomination. And during that time, it had become clear that my first wife and I were not able to continue together. Unfortunately, that split caused our church to do some things that drove me out of churches for 10 years. When I later married my wife Sara, I remained uncomfortable in the extreme with organized religion and churches, generally.
Then, one Sunday, the Canadian College of Performing Arts, where Sara taught, was offering a Remembrance Day service at St Matthias in Victoria. Sara asked me to go with her to support her students. I went and sat as far back as I could. But when we came to the Eucharist, I found myself at the altar rail with tears streaming down my cheeks.
The next week, I surprised Sara when I asked if she wanted to go back to that parish. After the service, while on the way to coffee, I told her that I’d just be a moment as I wanted to speak to the priest, the lovely Bob Arril. An hour later I emerged to find Sara sitting outside the church hall — everyone else had gone home. She asked me what I’d been talking about, and I told her I was going to be a priest. I think her jaw must have hit the ground. In two weeks, I’d gone from not darkening the door of a church to feeling called to ordination.
In the week between the Remembrance Day ceremony and the meeting with the priest, I had found myself repairing something on the sole of my boat when I heard that incessant voice again. Was now, finally, the time to be ordained? And this time I knew I had no more excuses. God was calling me and no matter how much I tried to ignore that call, I knew that for me, it was time to go to my Nineveh, to go to seminary. Although Sara was quite clear that she did not intend to wear a sweater set and pearls (her initial image of what a clergy spouse might wear), my wife encouraged me to pursue my calling.
Unlike all my other career choices, my calling has filled me in ways I could never have imagined. Jonah only had to spend three days and three nights in a large fish. I had spent a lifetime avoiding where God wanted me to be. But then, maybe God’s plan was actually to use that lifetime to prepare me for this moment. And for that, and for all the blessings I have enjoyed along the way, I am truly grateful.