On the week before my fourteenth birthday I went to spend the school summer holidays on the farm of friends, where I was to work for the next two and a half years. On a Sunday afternoon stroll with my father I told him I did not want to go to secondary school and intended to remain on the farm. My father’s reaction took me by surprise – it was not what I anticipated and dreaded. He wasn’t angry and he didn’t try to dissuade me. Instead he told me that, if that was what I wanted, all right, but I must not complain, or blame anyone but myself if there came a time when I regretted it. I was reminded of this recently when I walked over the actual spot where I confronted my father with my life-changing decision. I have never forgotten.
The Revd Dr Howard Watkin-Jones, presiding at my final interview as a candidate for ordained ministry, asked me if and how I thought my farming experience might be useful to me and to the church in ministry. In my reply I suggested I might have a useful ministry in a rural set-up (I did) and possibly someday retire in the country (I didn’t). Dr Howard Watkin-Jones (later to teach me in Church History) assured me that if God had a plan for me in ministry, my time in the country could be part of the shaping of my future ministry; he was right!
I have never complained but on occasions I do regret not having continued at school. Looking back, I can see those things which might have been different – things I would want to change if I were to live my life again. Wishful thinking and a pointless exercise. I can’t put the clock back! When I find myself singing the words of the song I wish I were a little bit younger and know what I know now I’m asking the impossible. To be younger, I would forfeit all the lessons that life has taught me. In spite of failure, mistakes, disappointments, when I count my blessings I cannot dismiss the providence of God. Perhaps there was no other way for me to take but to travel the road I’ve followed and to come to the place where I am now.
In everything God works for good with those who love Him. Romans 8:28
Contrary to what may be said of it – not an easy text.