Sunday, 25 November 2018
Forty years on ..... by Eileen Padmore
Last month we took ourselves off to a remote stretch of Northumbrian coastline to mark our fortieth wedding anniversary. Cosied up in a little stone cottage perched on the cliff edge – with sea views from every window and overlooking its own beach – we wallowed in the memories.
A tad unsociable? The thing is, there are so many happy, hilarious, poignant, sad (even devastating) moments special to us that would send others into glazed boredom.
First, we waded through a minefield of cliches like: 'Where has the time gone?' 'It only feels like yesterday.' 'How can we be forty years older when we haven't changed a bit (inside)?'
We have changed a lot, of course, by stealth. A comparison of photos then and now blows apart any illusion that we haven't aged as much as our peers. So what does the Bible say about forty years? According to an online search, it signifies a time of 'testing, trial and probation'.
Well that's not wrong! I wonder why we weren't warned? What happened to those roses around the door and romantic sunsets? Or is it just us? Do others major on that kind of thing, I wonder. Sure enough, we had rose arches leading to the front door of our cottage in Northern Ireland, but what I remember most about those was the pain of the thorns when we tried to prune them each year!
We asked for some of it, of course. Moving from country to country brings its own peculiar issues and rewards. Travelling from Cork to Belfast in the eighties in a battered car displaying a red Republic of Ireland number plate – with only 48 hours to find and purchase a house – isn't what sensible people do. But we did, and survived, even at gun point on that first visit!
So much shared humour, so many lovely friends, severe trials, long grey stretches, moments of achievement and unlooked for reward. Certainly testing and trials, but probation for what? What comes next?
For the children of Israel it was the end of their wanderings in the wilderness. For Noah, the catastrophic rains of the flood ceased after forty days and God promised never again. Jesus was tempted in the desert for forty days, after which he was surrounded by angels. Moses came down from the mountain on day forty one with a manifesto for harmonious living, dictated by God. Jesus appeared to his disciples for forty days before he went back to Paradise.
Could it possibly be that we've been changing on the inside after all; that his spirit has been working in and between us through all the events of those forty years; that the process will continue if we stay in tune?
There is no way of measuring or quantifying, but surely we can trust the one who brought this unlikely couple together, has accompanied the journey and promised to stay to 'til the end.
Eileen Padmore has retired from a life spent in health care and academia, having worked in Sierra Leone, Zambia, Eire and Northern Ireland (in the troubles) as well as inner city Birmingham and Leeds. She has had articles published in Woman Alive, Christian Writer and contributed to the popular ACW Lent book. She is currently tackling NaNoWriMo fir the first time – on target to date with the end in sight! Married to a professional musician, the family includes a feisty springer spaniel and an African tortoise.