There’s been a bit of a ritual here in Lewis and Harris over the last number of years. Every Easter, the 40th Reunion takes place for those who have just turned or are about to turn 40. It’s always a fun game looking at the photos to see who you recognise and seeing how people have changed through the years. Only this time, in 2017, it’s different: it’s the turn of my lot!
I still have a wee bit to go before hitting the 40 milestone, you understand, but having this landmark occasion to look forward to this week is a reminder of what’s gone before on life’s journey. As with any journey, my life has been full of highs (getting married, developing friendships, sharing happy occasions with family and friends, for example) and peppered with lows (deaths, illnesses, challenges).
I often think that one of the great privileges of living in our community and being involved in so much is getting to know so many people; the flip side is that too often news arrives of someone I know being unwell or having difficulties in their lives. But if we didn’t have these people in our lives in the first place, we’d never experience the sadness, sympathy and empathy we do, and it’s certainly a price worth paying for the blessing of being surrounded by family and friends.
Primary school, secondary school and university all yielded precious and lasting relationships. The same goes for work, church and social situations. The mechanics of these relationships may have changed over time, but the nature of them has not. And often, the initial basis for these friendships was a shared faith in Jesus Christ, which is guaranteed never to change.
Back in the days before social media and mobile phones it took real commitment and effort to keep in touch (writing a letter, making a phone call or arranging a visit). These were valuable – I still have some letters from friends written during university days which are quite entertaining to look back on! – and in a way more meaningful than sending a text, WhatsApp or Facebook message.
But sometimes, even with the best of friends, writing, calling or visiting could feel like an imposition, particularly when everyone was embarking on careers and developing relationships that would lead to marriage, families and so on. It’s easier to maintain friendships with all the access we have to technology today, but just because the means (a one-line text rather than a three-page letter) appears less significant, it doesn’t mean that there’s not substance beneath the surface. After all, it still takes commitment and effort, and for the most part we’ll only do so because we feel it is worthwhile.
Over the past 11 months, I’ve been involved in planning our 40th Reunion with a committee of not only peers, but friends. It’s been a lot of fun! Of course, there are pressures with something of this nature, but the people around you make such a difference. I hope and pray now, two days out from the Reunion, that those attending enjoy the event half as much as we’ve enjoyed organising it. There’s much to look forward to over the weekend, in God’s will.
There will be people there I haven’t seen since we left school, 20+ years ago; will that matter? I’m sure it won’t.
There will be people there I wasn’t comfortable with in school; will that make things awkward? Surely not; experience and maturity has shaped us into who we are today, not left us as the uncomfortable teenagers we once were.
There will be people there with whom I have very little in common; is that going to be a problem? Of course not! One of life’s great delights is getting to know about people, what they’ve done, where they’ve been and so on.
There will be people there and I won’t have a clue who they are (as the long-suffering committee members can attest to!); will that be a problem? Why would it? It’s an opportunity to meet new people at an event where everyone is equal, having friends and strangers in the room.
There will also be people there who I see and am in touch with regularly; will that mean it’s not worth spending time with them? Not a chance! It’s not every day you get to spend an occasion like this with those who mean something and have made a mark in your life.
The journey is about where you go, what you see, what you do. But more than that: it’s about who accompanies you on it. I’ll look back to 1977 (or however far back I can remember) and look forward to whatever the Lord has in store for me, and I’ll thank Him for everyone I’ve met, pray for His blessing on those who surround me and ask Him that each one of them will accompany Jesus (and, by His grace, me) on the journey to Heaven.
Psalm 40 says this:
“I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry…
Blessed is the man who make the Lord his trust…
As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me…
Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me! O Lord, make haste to help me!”