One of the main aspects of the curacy for me has been about growing in confidence – but not perhaps in the way one might think.
When I first started leading services at St Mark’s (especially the informal ones) to be honest I hated it – I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, I didn’t know any of the people I was leading, I didn’t know how services we’re “supposed” to be done. It didn’t help that on the very first service I led the projector screen fell off the wall 10 minutes before the start of the service!!!
The strange thing is that, by the time I was ordained, I already had quite a bit of experience of preaching, leading worship, and so on, and my outlook generally is to go for stuff and learn from my mistakes. I’m not particularly phased by standing in front of a large crowd and doing my thing. I’m confident in what I’m good at, and I know what I’m not so good at.
What I do struggle with though is when I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing (the “concious incompetence” in Bradwell’s terms), especially if I believe that there is a “right” way to do it, or that there are expectations I might not meet. This can create a lot of anxiety and insecurity for me, and was very definitely my initial experience of being a curate. I felt hugely self-concious and exposed, and that I was a fraud who was going to be called out at any moment.
What I think I might be starting to finally get is that isn’t actually about me at all. I did already know this, but there’s knowing and there’s knowing.
The extraordinary privilege I have, as a Christian, and especially as an ordained representative of the church, is to offer an alternative narrative. To be a reminder of what’s actally important. To be the non-anxious presence, who can say “It’s ok – God’s got this”.
I’m learning to be secure in who I am in Christ, as a person and as a leader. So that I don’t need to think about myself at all, much less what other people are thinking of me. Instead, let’s all of us think about Jesus. The measure of if I am doing my job well is not “did I say all the right words”, but “was it all about God”. Within that context, I think I’m learning to trust my own instincts and experience a bit more. To be comfortable with the part I’m playing, even if I get that wrong sometimes. So that when I’m thrust into a new situation, rather than panicking or fretting about the “right” thing to do, I can do my best, listen to the Holy Spirit, and make it all about Jesus. In short, to look outwards, not inwards. My experience so far of being ordained is that you never know know quite what’s going to come at you next, and I suspect the feeling of “winging-it” never fully goes away. But that’s ok – God’s got this.
Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about being complacent, or not preparing properly. I’m not saying we need to give any less than 100%, or that we don’t need to learn from our mistakes, or stop trying to improve. But I am saying that our “performance” (for want a better term) isn’t actually the important metric.
Of course it can also be nerve-racking to do something new. I remember the first time I lead (musical) worship outside my home group. It was an Alpha 2 day, and there were maybe 200 people. I was absolutely terrified! My legs were literally shaking, my hands were sweating so much I could hardly play the guitar. I strongly suspect that it was as painful for everyone else as it was for me! But, 25 years on, I just love leading (musical) worship, whether it’s with 5 or 500 other people. And part of why I love it is that it’s not about me – I am just helping us all give Jesus his worth. I do also think a little bit of stage fright is no bad thing – after all it is the King of Kings we’re talking about here!
Part of the joy of serving Christ is the freedom it brings. Freedom from anxiety. Freedom from being self-concious. Freedom to have fun, enjoy ourselves, and – yes – to sometimes completely stuff things up. Freedom to laugh at ourselves and give glory to God.
So the confidence I’m growing in is not primarily self-confidence. If anything the opposite. I’m learning to be more confident in God, in who He is, and what He’s calling us to be. It’s ok – He’s got this.