One of the first questions I was asked after announcing that I was going to take a leave of absence from ministry was, "Have you spoken with your professional supervisor about this?" My initial reaction was offence. Of course I have! What do you take me for? Fortunately, those comments stayed in my head. I have always taken professional supervision very seriously and have been blessed with some fantastic people throughout my ministry journey. I consider my supervisor to be the one who I can be truly honest about how ministry is travelling. In my experience, the supervisor's role is to hear you, challenge you, help you to be reflective about your role and hold you accountable.
Almost two years ago now, my supervisor of seven years became ill and was unable to continue our supervision relationship. At the time, I was upset. This was the man who had helped me define who I was in ministry, given me the courage to speak out and attempted to instil in me a good pattern of self care. He had listened to some of my most personal dreams, witnessed my confessions of doubts and encouraged me when I was feeling hopeless. I wasn't sure if I would find another supervisor quite like him.
Well, for almost two years now, I have been journeying with another supervisor. Last week, we had our final session together and I have been reflecting on how important this relationship has been for me over what has been quite a tumultuous period of my ministry. The sessions have been rather different to those with my previous supervisor, but for this I am very grateful. I think I have talked more. There has been a lot to get out of my head. Being able to do this with someone who doesn't have a hidden agenda has been very important. Colleagues, family and friends have all been there too, but sometimes they are a little too involved in the what the final outcome may be.
My supervisor has listened to me with interest, compassion and empathy. She has reflected back what she has heard. Sometimes the images she has used have shocked me or resonated so closely they have stayed with me for days. At times I have walked into the room confused and feeling hopeless, only to emerge an hour later with more clarity and conviction. My supervisor has never told me what she thinks I should do. She hasn't given wise advice or whipped me into line, but I always left feeling heard, acknowledged and ready to face the next stage.
I guess if I was to express this relationship with an image I think of two people walking across rocks at the beach. The two don't always take the same path and will choose different rocks to jump to next, but they come back together occasionally. Every now and then, one finds a leap to the next rock a little challenging. These are the times when one reaches out their hand to the other, giving enough confidence to take that next step. This is how it has been and I am extremely grateful to have had a person with whom to journey through this time. I know she will possibly read this post - so again thank you!!