I was once at a gathering of CSs organised by an academic who had been doing research into CS life. I was a bit dismayed that when the topic of positive aspects of CS life was raised the only thing suggested was, ‘Your children are likely to end up going into ethical careers.’ Having only been a CS for a few months at this point I felt rather concerned that there were not more good things, especially as I’m holding out for our children to become bankers or accountants so they can keep us in luxury in our old age. Now I’ve had a few more years as a CS I thought I would list some of the things I’ve found positive so far.
1. The house
I know, terribly materialistic but on days where things have felt really bad it has helped to remind myself how blessed we are to have a roof over our heads without worrying about how to pay for it. I’m very grateful for the flexibility it’s given me in terms of family and work and to have the space at a time in our lives when we can really make the most of it. I think we value it all the more because we won’t be here forever.
2. The dogs
If you are a cat person you won’t appreciate how much of a perk this is but for me it is a big highlight. James working at home meant that unlike most people who work full time we could have dogs. I did wonder if getting them was the best idea when I picked them up as Patch spent the 45 minute car journey jumping up and down in the boot and barking. Molly hopped into the back seat and was sick on my coat. As soon as we got into the house Patch weed on everything within reach. James was not pleased. Luckily things got better from there and they have been fantastic companions, especially on lonely evenings.
3. The interesting people and places
Whether it be your other half’s colleagues in ministry or the people you end up living near you are likely to meet people and communities you would not have encountered otherwise. I can’t think of many other circumstances which would have led to me living in an ex-mining village in the North East. Whilst this was a challenging time it was definitely an interesting experience. We are now in another unique community and are meeting more fascinating people. I also appreciate the opportunities we have to socialise with people of all different ages and backgrounds.
4. Seeing the best of others
People have been incredibly generous to us in many different ways. We’ve often found that those with the least to give have been the most eager to help us out. Your other half’s involvement in the community and church also means you hear about all sorts of good deeds which most people may not be aware of. I’ve been particularly inspired by other clergy we have met who are incredibly dedicated to doing what can be a very tough job.
5. The funny stories
People whose main frame of reference concerning the CofE is ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ and ‘Rev’ are sometimes disappointed that our lives do not involve quite so many hilarious incidents as in those TV programmes. However we’ve definitely got our fair share of amusing stories and the one word I’d never used to describe this life is boring.
6. The food
Wherever two or three are gathered together in the Lord’s name you can guarantee there will be food. Churchgoers seem to be particularly good at cooking and appreciate any event which gives them the opportunity to bake something. This is also the big upside to having meetings in your house – you get to enjoy the leftovers.
7. The personal growth
At the point when you are going through a difficult experience being told that you are probably learning lots from it can make you feel like throttling the person who imparts this wisdom. It is even more annoying when, with hindsight, you realise they were right. I don’t think ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ is always true but I do feel that it applies to me so far. I had no option but to cope and in doing so I have learnt significant things about myself, life and others. As someone who would happily stay in their comfort zone for eternity it has ultimately been a good thing to be forced to go completely outside it. With 40 years of challenges ahead I shall be Yoda-like in my wisdom by the time James retires.
8. The flexibility
Although James is generally very busy, he does have a wonderfully flexible schedule and can free up time during the day. This has been very useful, both when I was working full time and now I am at home full time.
I’m not sure I would have been able to come up with eight positive points four years ago and this is not an exhaustive list. I know some CSs will be able to come up with dozens, others may be in a place where they feel there is no upside. Whether you agree with all, some or none of the things I’ve listed, I hope that you can find at least one good thing to say about being a CS. Once you’ve found that one thing it becomes easier to recognise another one and, without meaning to, you can end up with a whole list to keep you going when things are rocky.