Do you believe life’s a journey?
“Do you believe life’s a journey? I do. I have been on the journey of life a good few years now.”
I can’t quite remember why my friend Chris learnt this drama, but we performed it several times one summer when we were students. I can still him wandering round the stage with his rucksack on his back sharing these lines. He was 19 when he learnt those words and since then, he has been a bank manager, a stay-at-home dad and an Anglican vicar. Life really has been quite a journey for him.
Today we are reminded of the journey that the people of Israel have been on. You will recall we met them at the beginning of October in Egypt living in terrible servitude and suffering. We have followed their journey round the Sinai peninsular as they have made slow progress towards the Promised Land. The first 49 verses of today’s passage are simply a reminder of every place they have been. Here’s a flavour:
The Israelites left Rameses and camped at Sukkoth. They left Sukkoth and camped at Etham, on the edge of the desert. They left Etham, turned back to Pi Hahiroth, to the east of Baal Zephon, and camped near Migdol. Numbers 33:5-7
You can imagine that this was learnt by Jewish children down the ages – it has an almost poem-like quality to it. I guess the people of Israel needed to be reminded of where they had come from. 40 years in the wilderness wasn’t because of God not having a Sat-Nav. 40 years in the the wilderness was actually changing the people from a rag-bag group of slaves into 12 strong tribes with strong leaders and a good vision of what God wanted them to do. The journey hasn’t been about getting from Eqypt to Canaan. The journey has been about shaping the people of God into becoming God’s chosen nation. According to Google you can walk it in 3 weeks if you walk 6 hours a day – so taking 40 years clearly wasn’t the most direct route.
And the same is true for us too. As we approach the end of 2014 it is good to look back and be reminded of the journey we have been on…..the changes – for good and for bad – that have happened and to begin to reflect on the new person we have become.
For me personally this has been quite a year. I feel a very different person from the one who began 2014. The one thing that is definitely true for 2014 is “Never say never”. Quite a few of “nevers” have actually become part of my everyday life.
“I will never have a dog. You will only get a dog in this house after first carrying out my dead body” is an almost word for word quote from me back in Dec 2013 while watching Paul O’Grady’s dogs programme on TV with the kids. Dempsey moved in in March, so that “never” lasted no time at all. And if you look at my Facebook timeline, you will know that Dempsey is the apple of my eye and I’ve loved every minute of having him with us.
“You’ll never catch me doing a “fad” diet. Just eat less and exercise more.” This one also caught up with me in 2014. Having said this many times over the last 20 years, my weight had grown from 12 stone to almost touching 17 stone, so while it might have been true, it was not a reality in my life. My friend Twanna sent me a link in June to a film called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. It was a wake up call that I really needed to do something about my weight. So in July I did a 15 day juice diet and over the next two months lost 2 stone in weight. I plan to do it all over again in January with my friend Jeff, so hopefully may get back down to the 12 stone I was when I got married!
“You’ll never catch me drinking that” was a regular comment to friend and business partner Vic over the years we worked together when he was drinking some “poncey” tea or another. And now here I am writing this, drinking my Ginger and Lemon tea with a cupboard full of weird and wonderful teas. I have gone from 10-15 cups of coffee a day to just 1 or 2. Healthier for me and my bank balance!
The final ‘never’ was an unspoken but deeply held one. We were foster carers for several years and have interacted with Social Services many times over the last 16 years since a cute little bundle of fun called Courtney came to live with us. We came across lots of situations and saw various children going into care. In the back of my mind the phrase “That could never happen to me” was firmly entrenched. And yet in 2014 it did happen to me and my family.
Perhaps more than anything, Courtney going into care shows how much a journey life is. Things keep moving on. Things need to change. We need to change. We need to accept help and support to make those changes. Christmas was lovely having Courtney around, but this morning, things feel a little wretched again as the steps forward we take seem to be accompanied by just as many steps back. Just as the People of Israel seemed to go round in circles in the wilderness, so it feels like that for today. Nothing is resolved. Nothing is fixed. And everything hurts like hell.
So I hope that 2015 will be year of breaking down a few more “nevers”as my journey from the person I was to the person God wants me to be continues. Throughout it all, the one message that keeps me sane is that deeply held belief that “Love wins”. Yesterday, today and forever. Spoiler alert! Love wins. Now I just need to live my life as though that was an actual reality. See you in 2015 folks!