48 years ago I was waiting for mine, not really with any high hopes as I thought I’d blown them. I’d never really ‘caught up’ at Grammar School, going there a year late as, though I passed my 11+ exam (there’s a memory many of us would like to forget!), I ‘failed’ it on the conduct report from my junior school headteacher, because she caned me 4 times a day for 4 years for being left-handed.
So a year at a very crap secondary school (I won’t say which one!) preceded my parents’ fight to get me into Lewes Grammar School, then one of the best Grammar Schools in the country.
They won: but the difference in quality was like going from top year junior school straight into 5th-year senior school. 3 weeks into my Grammar School ‘life’ my dad died, which, at 12 years old for me and 41 years old for him, was life-changing and emotionally impossible for me. I never caught up at Grammar, it was a massive struggle after secondary school and dad’s death. But I survived, scraping through my ‘O’ levels (GCSEs) with enough to get me into 6th form. I really thought I’d blown my ‘A’ levels, but I left school with 3, much to my (and my teachers’ surprise!).
Mum was wonderful, but as a widow, herself injured and unwell, she couldn’t work, so she couldn’t afford to help me through University (no student loans in those days) as parental contribution to Uni was significant back then. So I went out to work – in a bank (having failed Maths ‘O’ level you might be encouraged to know!!! – I did get it at the 5th attempt 3 years into my banking career). After 5 years in the bank, God started working on me to leave and go into ministry: I didn’t want to (reasonable salary, good pension, great career prospects, subsidised mortgage) so for 4 years I argued with God (an ‘interesting’ pointless exercise, I discovered!) before quitting at the end of 1978. I don’t know where my banking career would have taken me – big salary, big pension, paid-off mortgage by 55 years old, retirement – and a life of utter boredom!
What I DO know is that the plans God had for me FAR exceeded the constraints of a banking career (even if with no money!), and has taken me on a missionary journey around the world a few times, to 111 countries, privileged and humbled to have seen tens of thousands healed, countless astonishing miracles, salvation in great numbers, the dead raised, limbs grow from nothing, countless others released into the purposes of God for THEIR lives, and no plans to retire (even though I’m past 65 years old now and limping!). Would I have wanted to go to University? Yeah, maybe, but I couldn’t – and I’d genuinely say that. despite 5 wasted years of my life in the bank, I have NO regrets! I could have held on to my career, of course I could, and there will be people who’d say I wasted my life on giving up that career.
Whatever your results today, God will use successes and failures – and I guess I was one of the latter! – in ways no one else ever can….