Humility isn’t in fashion at the minute. Ditto submission. But like my human parents did in the eighties with some Danger Mouse wellies, and that orange jacket, my Heavenly Father has imposed these unwanted accessories on me, very much against my will.
‘Cuir ort iad’, the good Lord commands, giving me no say. I can peel them off and chuck them in a corner, but he will simply dust them down again, remind me – as my mother used to – that they’re perfectly serviceable and I will grow into them one day, and stand by while I sulkily don the hated garments. Humility suits me, he seems to think, and it goes SO well with submission.
And I hate this stupid uniform so much sometimes I could spit. I ask, him why I always need to wear them. He says nothing. And I’m learning what his silence means. It’s his gentle way of saying, ‘look inwards; you know why’.
I do, of course. Submitting to the will of God is a position of strength – but one I’m more likely to assume when he brings me low. While I don’t know why it was necessary this time, I do know it must have been, because God doesn’t arbitrarily wound us. He just doesn’t.
A few months ago, I began praying for guidance. It had been laid on my heart to think about standing for council. But I wasn’t getting a clear answer from God: was I being flattered into it, I asked him; was this my ego telling me I should? He didn’t answer. Although he didn’t say ‘no’, he wasn’t exactly yelling ‘go for it’ either. Someone suggested that perhaps my burden was a sign that this was the right thing to do. So, I changed my prayer. I stopped asking for an answer to whether or not I should do this and begged, instead, that he not let me have victory against his will. When you have looked at life from both sides, as I have, you would never choose to be at odds with your Lord, no matter the prize.
The answer I got on the sixth of May was that my first instincts had been right: this was not the path laid out for me. Yes, I’d have been a good councillor; I know that, even if I couldn’t convince the already content people of Loch a Tuath. I’d have cared about them and fought for them, and never been afraid to speak the truth. But it is not where God wants me.
People have been very kind and sometimes overly solicitous since the election. I am not heartbroken at being passed over in favour of the incumbents. The odds were never much in my favour – and not at all,indeed, now that I know it wasn’t God’s will for me. But I don’t think I have been disobedient, because I now believe he wanted me to stand. Just not to be elected.
‘Why’? you might well ask. ‘Did he wish to humble you’?
Very possibly. But if he did, I needed it. Perhaps I was overdue a reminder that the house will not stand except the Lord builds it.
Another reason has come to light too, which has nothing whatever to do with me and my ego. So many people have been in touch to say my experience has helped them. Some heard the radio programme about my campaign and responded to what I had to say about widowhood – an audience I could never have hoped to reach had Radio 4 not followed my bid for the Comhairle. Others read my response to electoral defeat and saw submission to God’s will as a possibility for themselves.
I am an odd choice of person to make that point, but that’s what the Lord does, isn’t it: he uses the foolish to confound the wise. In the process of renewing my humble acceptance of his lordship over me, and of requiring that I submit to his will, God has helped others to see the beauty in such a path. He did it as elegantly as you’d expect, using what could have become vehicles for my ego, to broadcast his own name and his own perfect sufficiency to people who needed that message, just as I did.
As I left the count, someone said to me, ‘it would have been good to get another Christian in there’. He didn’t mean it – or, at least, he didn’t mean me. It was the only thing he could think of to say without actually lying or giving offence. Like so many others, that’s what he thinks I have to offer – that I sail under ‘church’ as a flag of convenience, brandishing Jesus like an ‘access all areas’ pass.
Being a Christian councillor, though, is like being an Independent one: your allegiance isn’t what you say, or what others think – but how you act. And maybe God knew that my witness for him would take a back seat if he permitted me this win. I would rather face any amount of other people’ schadenfraude than be guilty of that for a second.
Victory – in him – does not always take the shape we expect or want. Yet, it is victory, nonetheless.