When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore. When you wake filled with dread at the day that lies ahead, that’s probably because you’ve got to go to work. I’ve recently finished six weeks of teaching English as a foreign language and this account will form part of my therapy for that.

It’s been a strange time that I haven’t really enjoyed, and yet throughout it God has been so good to me. For starters, when the time came to start looking for work, I emailed my CV to a few companies on Wednesday, I got a phone call and job offer on Thursday and started work on Monday. After that four-week contract ended I got another two weeks’ work which took me right up to Freshers’ Week, which I had already planned to spend fully doing student stuff for King’s Church. The timing, in other words, was perfect. That is blessing.

I had to keep telling myself that (and 2 Thessalonians 3:10) because I spent much of those six weeks feeling nervous and incompetent, and, without sounding arrogant, it’s been a long time since I’d experienced that so consistently. Blank looks from students, poor explanations from me (especially re. grammar: it is possible to be able to know something without being able to explain it), lessons that took far longer to plan than I’d expected, class activities that took much less time to complete than I’d hoped, regretting going to bed because it brought the next day closer… The contrast with when I started working for Brickhill in 2002 was striking (though that may have been because I was too arrogant to notice all my mistakes back then).

So the shadow of my previous employment hung heavy over each day. I don’t regret leaving Brickhill and Bedford because I'm closer to Deb and I know that this is God’s plan, but church leadership and preaching are what I love doing. To have been paid to do them was an incredible privilege and for it to cease takes some getting used to. A church leader I know often speaks of the goldfish-bowl effect of working for a church: your work life, social life, and church life are all the same thing. That brings unique pressure but so does trying to leap from one bowl to another several times a day, especially when you’re not used to it. I was trying to plan lessons, write talks, see Deb, prepare for Freshers’ Week, eat, sleep, etc. For someone who likes to concentrate on one thing at a time so he can give his all to it, this was hard.

To just complain about all of this, however, would be ridiculous: there have been loads of blessings. Deb has been incredibly brilliant the whole time, patiently encouraging and challenging and lovely, whist doing a ridiculously hard job and revising for a huge exam. I am still getting lots of new opportunities to preach and lead which are really exciting. I was able to cycle to work, which I really enjoy doing. I’ve been humbled again by being rubbish at something. I’ve been reminded of the misery of unhappy employment. I must have grown somehow or other because hard times are usually more formative than good ones and I’m outside a long-established comfort zone. My preference for ‘one thing at a time’ doesn’t go well with normal life so I need practice at multiple plate-spinning and I’ve certainly been getting that. And, of course, there’s the simple fact that in a time of economic strife I walked into a couple of jobs, and even when I’m not working I have financial support to help keep me going. I’m hoping that the realisation of all this will help me to have the right attitude when the next job comes along.