Saturday, 14 June 2008

Join the dots

We had a nice bike ride today from Morden Hall Park back to Croydon following the Wandle Trail.

You can get most of the way without going on the roads which is nice and some parts of the river and just spectacular. It is still a powerful river at points which has supported a lot of industry and many mills in its day. It felt good to be on the land as it is, as opposed to what we have put on it.

We passed through a number of points that held memories for me including Wilderness Island near Mill Lane, Beddington Park where we met Tom and Stacy. The park itself borders my old school. That river we were cycling on was the very same river I fell into on a regular basis after the hurricane in 1987. We used to walk from one side of the river to the other across fallen logs with varying degrees of success. How well I remember the smell of pond water emanating from my socks (if that is not too pleasant a concept to reflect upon).

Following the river was interesting in that I knew various points along its length quite well, but did not previously know the whole picture. It was fascinating to cycle through ancient looking riverside woods to pop up next to a road a have got the bus down a thousand times. Gradually an overall sense of its course, above and beyond its sections I have known formed in my imagination.

One way or another that river has wound itself through many times and seasons of my life and riding along it today reminded me of a lot of that. The more I think about it, the more it blows me away. Everything we need for life is in the river and its beautiful: the river is a journey; the river is a story; the river is wealth; the river is the economy; the river is the painting; the river, it doesn't stop.

"[Jesus] ...the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14 RSV)

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Mum and Dad's Fortieth Wedding Anniversary

'Forty Years of Bliss'

It is an interesting irony that everyone seemed to able to share: that the day to day realities of a marriage are sometimes less than entirely blissful.

My mum and dad's friends had these T-shirts made up for their fortieth wedding anniversary. It was a joke that nobody failed to get. I don't think my generation is going to be able to laugh in the same way. To laugh at that means you are getting through the problems. To laugh means you do not think you will be beaten by the problems. To laugh means it has been worth it whatever the cost.

My people: I think a lot of them are going to give up. I don't think my generation is going into this thing with the same attitude. I don't want to be too hard on us; we have good qualities. We can be egalitarian, globally responsible, humane and considerate. But getting through forty years of marriage is not a calling as many of us are going to sign up for.

It was a lovely day with a real collection of family, family friends and absent friends. Adjacent to the day itself were memories shared of other, similar parties held in the garden at my parents' house. Like their twenty-fifth anniversary where some friends and I played some very rough rock covers in the back garden; the singers voice coming through a bass amp. As bad as it may have been as a performance it was much recalled today along with various synonyms for 'drunk' to describe the mental state of the musicians.

They often quote that African saying on World Service, 'it takes a village to raise a child', especially in debates about correcting the misdemeanors of wayward British youth. What struck me today was that, perhaps, it takes a lot of friends to make a marriage. There were about thirty-five people there and most of them I have known all my life. A great big crowd of moral support and affirmation; a crowd stood together like so many antarctic penguins keeping each other warm.

So, it can be hard work like a marriage, just doing the next right thing one day at a time and trusting God for the results. It helps me to remember the God's son knows a thing or two about suffering and endurance:
Hebrews 12:2
We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in Heaven, the one next to the throne of God.
For just a moment today, when the sun came out and we made our toasts to mum and dad, and we all shared a sense of love, admiration and respect knowing that it couldn't have been easy, no one was thinking about the hard times really even though we laughed at the T-shirt, I thought well maybe Heaven is a bit like this. Because when it's over, it's over. You don't think about having had to wait for the kettle to boil when you are drinking your cup of tea. The house of cards falls neatly back into the pack. Wounds heal. Friends meet. You recognise the face of someone you deeply love and have always known. You put the bag down. Ronnie Barker takes off his awful shoes and everything's all right forever.