Do you ever wake up one morning and think what you have could have been? No, I don’t mean thinking what it would be like to be a famous rock star or actor, but what realistically you could have become if you had been able to make different choices along the way. I know some folk are surprised when I tell them I used to do other things before becoming a vicar, but I could today have been a professor of linguistics, or a partner in my own accountancy practice. Before I left university, I seriously considered doing research into the history of pronouns before deciding it was probably a bit too theoretical even for me. Besides which, I already had an inkling at that stage that God was calling me to the ministry. But because I needed some experience of the real world before training as a vicar, I qualified and practised as a chartered accountant for six years. I sometimes wonder what I would be earning now if I had stayed in the profession…a thought that often crosses my mind at Christmas.
But I really wouldn’t swap being a vicar for anything else. Paul writes in Phil 3:5-8: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
Not, I think, that Paul was ungrateful for the training and background that he had. His Jewish heritage made him better able to appreciate the importance of the gospel. His first-class education helped him to more adequately explain and defend the Christian faith. His attempts to observe the law made him all the more grateful for the grace of God. But all these things paled into insignificance when Christ met him on the Damascus Road.
As for me, a training in linguistics certainly helped me learn to communicate, and a background in accountancy taught me good management. And, yes, I could have pursued either of these options. But in the final analysis they would have only been the day job. Even in my lowest moments I still have to say nothing beats being a vicar!