So, yesterday friends of ours celebrated their Silver Wedding. We, a small crew of friends and family assembled in the gloriously named Dog and Hedgehog. While we were arriving from the different places we call home, we broke and ate hunks of bread that had been dipped into bitter olive oil and sharp balsamic vinegar.
Not long after we sat down at the long table, flies started to appear. It bizarrely made eating indoors feel more like we were eating al fresco. But wine was flowing and beautiful food was beginning to arrive and so the insects were relegated to the league of minor occasional irritation.
'A day to remember all the good things' said my friend in her later speech, quipping that she had not had the opportunity twenty five years ago and was sure as anything going to make up for it. They had chosen to gather us, we who have weathered good times and bad, sometimes together, sometimes in our separate lives. To sit with them, break bread, drink wine and share delicious food. Applaud, cheer and celebrate all the goodness.
Flies on walls over the years have witnessed the joy and sad of the years of the collective; the illnesses, the births, the bereavements, the weddings, the broken relationships and the enduring.
Most particularly with our friends we have shared the goodness and pains of times in church leadership. Times of difficulty are more recent and therefore in sharper focus. Things go inexplicably wrong and are horribly messy, the wailing that no-one else understands, periods of dark doubt, and baggage of unmet expectations. At times closing in like hordes of insects, the overwhelming noise of buzzing is too hard to bear and their sheer numbers close to snuffing out the Light.
A short nod to those things too, in the conversation at the table, but an acknowledgement that they have shaped us over the years, not defined us. The fact is that the ones that matter are the ones who have remained.