(My Pause For Thought on BBC Radio 2 on November 23, 2021. The theme for the week was "the most important man in your life" for MO-vember!)
My most important man gave me advice in his kitchen when I was 35 that meant that that same kitchen was my kitchen when I was 50.
I had just arrived at Queens University in Belfast as part of the Chaplaincy team and thought I would grab a coffee with ministers of local churches. Ken Newell invited me up to his house for a coffee. Ken was minister of Fitzroy and a big inspiration on my life through his work to bring peace to Northern Ireland.
It is strange because I can remember vividly that short mile and a half journey and sitting in Ken’s kitchen. We didn’t have much time and while making a coffee Ken said,
“Steve when you get to 50 make sure you know who you are. Most of my peers have been looking over their shoulders at what every else expects of them and most are having an identity crisis because they haven’t a clue who they are.”
A quick coffee and I was gone… but with that most important advice ringing in my soul.
For the next 15 years I tried to live out Ken’s words. My very favourite verse from the Bible is John 10:10 and not just because my birthday is 10:10. Jesus speaks in that verse about coming to give us “life in all its fulness.”
For me Ken’s advice helped me realise that life in its fulness would depend on my being me. Not trying to be like others. Me. As God made me. My unique self.
When Ken left as minister of Fitzroy 12 years ago, the church kindly called me to be his successor. If I hadn’t stayed true to Ken’s advice, I don’t think they would have. Ken was different and though I was different than Ken, Fitzroy wanted different and not anyone the same as everybody else.
So I woke up on my 5oth birthday and had a cup of coffee in Ken’s old kitchen, now ours. This morning’s Pause For Thought comes from the exact place where the thought took place.
Ken is Still one of the most important men in my life and he gave me the best advice I ever got. Be yourself to the full Steve. Be yourself.