'Putting Up With Each Other'
Another New Year arrives and I expect some of you reading this have already tried, like me, to start the New Year with good intentions of more exercise, a better diet and plans for personal improvement. By mid February at the latest I have usually settled back into my old comfortable ways, but I still feel better for giving it a go.
This year, 2016, I confess I found it harder than normal to bounce into January after the chaos and fun of Christmas. The autumn and early winter brought with it challenges both at home and abroad and I was left feeling muddled, exhausted and anxious about the state of the world and where this next year might take us.
When speaking to a friend about this feeling she replied "we all have days like that - it's just being human". Words that comforted me as I do know "this too shall pass" but also resonated with me as I live each day as an imperfect human in this imperfect world.
Back in September 2015 I was privileged to be part of a symposium in Rome held by INTAMS on Marriage and Family in the Church and Society. There was much discussion about the gap between the idealised family spoken of by our churches and the messy reality in which we all live.
Then, over the Christmas period I found this idealistic view promoted further by all the marketing images we see of Christmas. Most were of a perfect, happy family-focused Christmas with everyone together happy in well-furnished homes, all getting along and of course everybody looking healthy, well-fed and incredibly attractive. Very few adverts let us see the imperfect, the hurt, the lonely, the homeless, the poor or the destitute.
As Christians we recognise our own imperfections and we see difficulties around us, we ask where God is and regularly ask for forgiveness. We aim to do better, to resemble Christ more closely, to help others and make the world a better place. However, sometimes the right thing isn't so clear cut or easy, isn't pretty and doesn’t fit with a view of the ideal.
In Colossians Chapter 3 Paul talks to the church about forgiveness and we are urged to "put up with one another and forgive each other". Today that need to tolerate and forgive continues, even within a community or communities of believers and, with this in mind, January brings around again the week of Prayer for Christian Unity. As we work together towards greater unity both locally and nationally, we are required to go further than "putting up" with each other. We are asked to make an active choice to be together in prayer, worship and action, to focus on what is shared and to show God’s love to a world in pain.
So, as we start this New Year together, let’s stop worrying about an unachievable ideal, forgive others and ourselves and, at all times, "add love, which is the bond of perfection" Colossians 3 v 14.
Doral Hayes, Executive Development Officer - Association of Interchurch Families