Birthdays, Laughter, and Hopes for an Unknown Future:
Yesterday I celebrated a belated birthday with two lovely female friends. A beautiful, crisp autumnal day, bright with hope and promise, in the midst of change and old things fading away, was spent catching up over lunch, wandering around quirky shops, trying on winter jumpers and cardigans, and then one of my friends and I continued on to enjoy the beauty of autumn in the park, as we said a fond farewell to our other friend as she headed home. Life was alive, as it were, all around us. Children chased squirrels, dogs delightedly frolicked in the autumn leaves, an old lady sat quietly on a park bench, couples embraced, and laughter lightened the air in the playpark. Squirrels scampered, ducks quacked and splashed in the pond, and cameras clicked as people took it all in, and took time to capture the moments. And as we slowly traversed riverside walks, where the ground was strewn with golden leaves, and dappled with sunlight, my friend and I embraced the opportunity to linger a bit and to chat about the deeper things of life, and of our experiences. A moment shared in the passing of time, and the joy of a golden autumn afternoon. We reflected upon changes in our lives and also hopes of things we wanted to do together and in some newly forming friendships. We talked about faith, about creative projects, pottery, painting, art and photography, about friendship, about God and the deeper things of life. We had only intended to walk through the park briefly before parting ways to go to our own homes, but we walked around the park once more just to linger in conversation and each others company, and to help each other gain understanding of certain things. The blessedness of friendship.
Earlier, at lunch, the three of us had laughed – the kind of laughter that brings tears to your eyes, makes you clutch your belly and be completely happy in the moment, forgetting your cares and worries. We laughed because we were talking about age and time passing and as we chatted about stories we had heard about people in their 80s, 90s and early 100s who had taken to adventures such as hand gliding, diving, and doing all sorts of other adrenaline stoking activities, we imagined ourselves in the future as old, old ladies, not letting age hold us back but telling ourselves that the sky is the limit as the three of us jump out of a plane in a sky dive! We thought about how we might lighted our loads on the way down by throwing out our walking sticks, zimmer frames, glasses and false teeth, while at the bottom our future children and grandchildren would be aghast at our crazy and carefree antics! We were not mocking old age, but just delighting in the crazy things we might get up to in the future, when we no longer cared about what other people thought, as we resolutely refused to allow age to hold us back. It was lovely to think of the three of us, still friends well into old age, a long, long time from now, and it brought joy to our souls to share the laughter in that moment of a life well lived.
Time Passes, Leaves Fall, Seasons Change.
When I was a teenager, there was a fun and upbeat song by a teen band that was about friendship and how we can plant seeds of friendships, but we don’t really know which ones will grow and which ones will last and stand the tests of time. I had a friend at the time who I think also liked the song, we had known each other since we were about 4 or 5 years old, and when I was 9 I had to move to another town quite far away, which meant new schools, and not seeing each other every day. We tried to keep in touch, and we did well at that for a while, but as the years went by we changed and the friendship of our childhood and early teen years became more of a memory. We really thought we’d be friends into old age, and we did reconnect online in more recent years, but the thing is sadly we won’t be friends into old age. Not because we no longer cared, not because we had drifted too far from the possibility, but sadly because my friend died.
I won’t go into details of that, but it is a reminder that we don’t know which seeds will grow, which will last or how things will turn out. Our friendships are precious though and should be cherished for what they are in the moments.
Change Comes in Different Ways
Aside from the tragedies of life, like the death of a friend who we thought would be around forever, other changes can be positive, can bring growth and hope. Yet some changes can be challenging, and come about not because of death but because seasons move on and time passes. Circumstances change, people get married, have families of their own, and in some cases a strong foundation of friendship can mean that those friendships last through differing seasons where we no longer have so much circumstantially in common – I am blessed to have quite a few of these, and it is a choice, to continue to ‘give and take’, to listen and learn and love. I have friends who live thousands of miles away now, in totally different parts of the world, but our friendships continue and are blessed as we value each other. I have friends who are married, have children and are in stages of lives that haven’t happened for me yet, but that I wait and hope for, but our friendships stand strong, they might waver from time to time, but because we have a bond that goes deeper than circumstance, we continue to ‘do life’ together, and that is such a blessing in this ‘throwaway’ society.
A Sure Foundation
Sometimes we don’t fully know why change happens. Sometimes people move on, and that’s ok. God, in Christ Jesus is the foundation for my relationships. And when things are challenging, I know I always have a True Friend Who Is always Faithful who will guide and direct me to be the kind of friend and person He wants me to be, through all the changing seasons of life, through times when people are challenging, or through times of hurt.
I am learning about the freedom in Christ to let things go, to allow Him to be Lord, and to allow Him to know and be content in not knowing why things don’t always go smoothly in human relationships. People may treat us in ways that don’t make sense, that seem unkind, but He knows the reasons and the details. It is a challenge to love, but He gives that love, we can’t do it on our own.
In Christ we are called to be part of a Body, a Family, to have equal concern for each other. When the blood flows and the Body is working together healthily, it is a beautiful thing, but when there is a fracture, a tear, a clot, a disease or a break, then we need to allow the Healer to heal, and nobody said this would be an easy or comfortable process.
My responsibility in all of my relationships, is foremost to honour and be faithful to my God. Jesus Christ challenges me to be the person He wants me to be, and as much of a challenge as that is, especially in a world filled with broken people, myself included, He gives me the grace, the means and the power to be changed and to become that person. I remind myself, when faced with the challenges of broken people in a broken world that His Arms were opened wide on the Cross, embracing us in love, forgiving us, pouring love, grace and peace upon us. I cannot fold my arms and heart to other people when He has given everything, this amazing love for me.
However, just as God gives us choice, whether or not to respond to His invitation of forgiveness and love, or whether to walk away and continue in our rebellion, sin and apathy, we need to realise that the people around us are also making choices. Choices to love, or to be s
elfish, choices to build each other up and look to each others interests, or to look only to our own, choices to communicate or to be silent, to embrace or to walk away.
God gives us the freedom to choose, but also find freedom in letting things go into His Hands, His perfect wisdom and understanding, and into His Love. We can give things to Him without fear, and we can know that He is in control.
What matters to me, and what He Is teaching me, is that He Is my Truest Love, my most Faithful Friend, the most important relationship in my life – and He commands me, Love my neighbour as myself – if I love Him, then I need to choose to love other people in a way that honours Him, even when that is difficult, when they are difficult, or unkind. I want to love Him, and not to hurt The One Who has loved me and given everything for me. That is what matters.
But learning what that means is a step by step process, allowing Him to hold my hand and walk me through it. I can’t take responsibility for anyone else’s actions or inactions, but I can love the Lord my God, with all my heart, and all my soul and all my mind and all my strength, and by His grace and power and love working in me, I can choose to allow Him to show me how to love my neighbour too.
And as the autumn leaves fall around me, I too can let things go, let them go into His Hands, choose to listen to Him and obey Him, and embrace the love and light that He has for me as I live to honour Him.
Investing in what matters.
Sometimes people don’t want our company and we can’t force or control that, but we can pray for them, let them go if that’s what they wish for love and friendship cannot be forced or imposed upon someone, and we can put our hearts and our efforts into those relationships and friendships that are right in front of us, where there is reciprocity and faithfulness. I am so blessed to have such friendships where both choose allow Christ to Be the Centre, and even in my friendships with people who don’t believe in God or aren’t Christian brothers or sisters, to continue to love each other, invest in the friendship, in understanding, and these are such blessed and fulfilling gifts in my life.
I look around me as the seasons change, as certain things fall away, and I thank God for the beautiful gifts of love and friendship in my life that stand the test of time, for those that don’t I give thanks for the good times, I pray for those for whom the seasons of friendship have passed, and I embrace the opportunity to invest in the beautiful friendships I have now, and the new ones that are budding and beginning to bloom and blossom in my life in this new season with God at the centre of it all, and look forward to seeing who I will do that OAP skydive with, as we embrace laughter, love, joy and faithfulness together! 🙂 . x
Jesus Christ Is the Same, yesterday, today and forever. His Steadfast Love will never change. 🙂 x