Five essentials…

God and Christian faith
It is arguably unrealistic to rank one’s closest relationships in importance when some of our closest relationships are so different.
My relationship with the God whom Jesus honoured, showed so clearly by his life’s work, and who was his constant foundation-for-life, guide and compass – surely in one sense this has been and I believe will long be the most essential friendship I have.  But… it’s a spiritual relationship: not all my questions of God can be answered, God’s standards are so good and sensible but also so frustratingly unreachable.  God has been exploited and misrepresented by so many people: folk I’ve known and those I’ve only heard about.  We humans play games with God (and/or with our own values) in both major and little ways, so that I often ask myself, “Am I taking You for a ride too?”
But my questions of God and my self-questioning, plus the feedback others give me also help to assure me that I’m probably maintaining a fairly sane and healthy balance.

My nearest and dearest Helen
My life partner has always been and remains almost 100% of what anyone could expect of one’s best friend.  It helps that I’m comparatively grateful, kind and unassuming man, but my wife and her family are very down-to-earth, cheerful, realistic and sensible people: who could justify finding fault with folk like that?  Helen is one of nine siblings and although they now belong to the senior generation it is telling that they all married well and that all the nine marriages have lasted.  We’re talking between 37 and 60 years.

My children and family
Passing on the gift of life and shared responsibility for shaping young lives must be the richest joy and privilege we can enjoy.  And it has been for Helen and me.
Besides this, I do love my natural family and family-by-law.  There are surely always some differences and tensions in the innermost family circle, and despite our common Dutch middle class and Christian background, our family has occasional stressors too.  I’m thankful that despite this we’ve always been on excellent terms, and all our sibling couples are among our best friends.  And hey, that’s not because they all live far from where we do!

My work
What a special thing I have found working for God and representing Jesus – surely among almost everybody’s “best friends”, even those who have little good to say about “the Church” and Christian people.  And being in a trusting relationship (and a respected and lasting one) with so many people because of this calling is a rare privilege also.
It’s not surprising to me that this task has often come with some significant pain and distress, but our last church assignment (and still our home church) has been an exceptionally positive and heartening 13½ year final chapter in that respect.
I don’t think I’d choose any other work if there was that possibility.

Memories
What a wonderful thing the mind is, and how distressing it is to lose one’s memory.  There are so many beautiful memories in what I have just listed here.
I cherish the memories of my parents, of family holidays throughout my life, of overseas travel and discovering Australian, Dutch and some other history and places, of growing in my appreciation of music, art, plants and animals, geography and technology, history and finance… I could continue.
My memories are a large part of who I am, my skills and choices, my life story.  In fact, we humans can achieve and enjoy much without marriage, children and even work, it seems, but without our memories we are nothing.  Our memories include happy and dark times, but I have learnt a lot about hugging the good and benefitting from the sad and bad.

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4 comments

  1. Hallo Fred,

    Ik heb nu een “abonnement” op je verhalen en krijg nu op de meest vreemde momenten een signaal op m’n IPhone dat je weer iets “gepost” hebt. Ik lees ze graag.

    Groet uit de Zaanstreek,

    Dick

    • Hoi Dick! Leuk van je te horen en dat je al (?) m’n verhalen nog steeds leest. Helen en ik hebben idd veel redenen om onze genadige Heer en onze lieve familie erg dankbaar te zijn!
      [Dick is our oldest nephew and a great guy in every way we know – we both love him dearly and because he’s a subscriber here he gets weekly notifications half a world away and at the oddest times.]

  2. What a beautiful example of the leaven in the loaf?

    Fred’s words glimpse the power of his humility, gratitude, and optimistic trust that in the end all will be well, if we genuinely love one another.

    In my experience, they are very true of Fred. More than in most of us, he is that best of all leaders; the one who says, “Look, if we can all just calm down a bit, we can probably sort this mess out.”

    At a time when I am also looking back on what meanings I may attach to my complicated and rather unproductive life, I have to admit that I am envious.

    I find some comfort in a little legend that I read many years ago, called “The Fourth Wise Man.”

    The gyst of the story is that there were four wise men, not just three, who were called to visit the Baby Jesus. They agreed to join up in a nearby town and journey together.

    However, the fourth wise man was delayed when he met a widow on the way. He sold his gift for Jesus and gave the money to the widow. By this time, the other three had given up waiting and had journied off without him.

    For the rest of the story, he tried to rejoin his friends, but was constantly interrupted by some needy situation, which he kept stopping to help. His whole life was spent in complicated, and largely futile, attempts to help the needy and the hopeless.

    And this failure to get to the birth of Jesus became a source of great sadness in his life; a deep feeling that he had somehow failed in his deepest life purpose. Surely, there would now be no glory in his life.

    The story culminates at the crucifixion, when Jesus comforts him with the thought that all those untidy interruptions to help others……. amount to the essence of Jesus’ message. That was the great glory of his life.

    It is a comforting thought that although our life may have become very untidy and our biography can easily be a target for our critics (especially the one inside my head)….but the leaven in the loaf can make all the difference.

    In my opinion, it is those small things, like his humility and ability to find the good in things, that has made Fred such an effective spiritual teacher.

    As someone once said, “I would far rather see a sermon than listen to one!”

    Peace and love, Brian.

  3. Thanks so much Brian, for another heartfelt and heartening Comment here.
    Yes, in many ways my life has been a fair bit tidier than most, and as I’ve often written here and said elsewhere, the reason for this is part of the mystery that so much of life is. I’m deeply grateful but find no reason to congratulate myself.
    Your story of the 4th wise man is very special: I had not come across it but it’s so very much in the spirit of Jesus. You and we all should get comfort from that.
    As you say, our greatest detractor is usually in our head, and it’s important to remain mindful of that. I’m sure that the life education which you have done and clearly still relish in will have helped many people too.
    It’s been good to catch up with Justin when we’ve been in Perth in recent years, and you have much reason to be grateful for what you have been and are for him. When one of us is in the other’s territory we really must catch up. to do some more cud chewing too!

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