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!
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.
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.