John 20 v 19 – 23; Galatians 2 v 1 -10
As the mist rises above the road map of the government’s plan for easing the COVID restrictions during the coming year, we have the opportunity to reflect on the effect of the pandemic on our lives.
Without doubt our lives have changed and I am sure that some of the changes may stay with us. Working from home, for example, is now a permanent feature of working procedures for many people and internet trading is now almost the norm. Groceries home delivery, once a common service, (Granville in Open all Hours), then became extinct, but now is much sought after again.
One aspect of life that has been subjected to great pressure is that of friendships. Eighteen months of social separation has resulted in many friendships being put on hold, with people not meeting, not sharing, and not maintaining that social link that is so important.
My daughter is a keen fan of the television series, ‘Friends’,(now only available on specialist channels), The story line revolves around the escapades of a group of young friends, totally different in characters, as they battle with the ups and downs of life, often leading to hilarious situations. The important message in the series is that they all support each other no matter what happens. The strapline being, ‘I’ll be there for you’.
The importance of friendships is something that is often overlooked but it is clinically proved that we need good friendship connections to maintain our mental and social wellbeing. Friends can celebrate good times, and support during bad times. Friends can help to prevent loneliness and give an opportunity for companionship. Friends can increase a sense of belonging and purpose.
I have to say that all my friends from my school days are no longer in touch and as I moved around the country I have lost track to where they are now. In my teenage years I spent most of my time with a friend Ian Norris. We were totally miss matched, he was tall and I was short, he was very intelligent and I was not, he came from a wealthy background and I did not, and he was two years older than me, but we had some great times. Unfortunately I lost touch with Ian in 1969 and despite several efforts I have never been able to trace him.
As with many people Jean and I had special friends who after over fifty years I still keep in touch with on a weekly basis, even through the COVD crisis. Our families have grown in parallel and we have both experienced great celebration and sadly disasters, but as the saying goes, ‘A celebration shared is doubled and a disaster shared is halved’, (I have no idea who actually said or wrote said that) . I can’t wait for the time that I can arrive at their doorstep with an overnight bag and shatter the peace and tranquillity of their home.
Possibly the strangest group of people to become friends were the disciples. Most of them came from different backgrounds with different skills and experiences of life but during the three years of Jesus’s ministry they learnt from his teaching, developed spiritually from his preaching and were influenced by his love for each one of them. In return they devoted themselves to Jesus and with the exception of Judas, returned their love for him
The disciple’s friendship developed into interdependency so much so that after the crucifixion we find them gathered together in a locked room supporting each other, hiding from the authorities, trying to make sense of what had happened and of what to do next. It would have been easy to scatter across the country, individually blending into society anonymously, leaving the past behind and staying safe. But they chose to support each other and carry on the work as Jesus would have wished.
It is interesting to note that that in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, Paul relates to a meeting in Jerusalem with the disciples Peter, James and John. This meeting is likely to have been twenty years or so after the death of Jesus indicating that the disciples were still a friendship group at that time.
As Ian Norris was two years older than me, he passed his driving test before I was even old enough to drive. He bought a 1936 Morris 8 car in which we travelled all over the country for various reasons. Unfortunately the car regularly broke down and as we had no AA recovery, Ian’s dad was frequently called out to come and rescue us from some remote place. Eventually Ian’s dad threw in the towel and gave him his mum’s car a nearly new Mini which was much more reliable, – not as much fun though.