One of the benefits of working as a self-employed domestic window cleaner is that I can turn mere customers into good friends, as a result of a long-standing contract between a householder and myself, which involves turning up when I say I'll turn up, and doing a job to the level of their satisfaction. Such is the case of one ageing couple whose house I called at this week. This time round, one of their sons had returned from Australia to stay with his parents for three weeks, and it was their last full day in England before take-off the next day. With him was his wife and his two children. The customer also has a daughter living in San Francisco, and she too is raising her family there. Sometimes I wonder what is it about Britain that makes people want to live abroad.
Although I wished them farewell and to enjoy a pleasant flight home, I could not help but sigh within. Living in Australia, with its fine beaches, coral reefs, diversity of wildlife, a slower pace of living, and a pleasant climate to match, makes me wonder, if I were to compare myself with this young father, why I have missed out on some of the good things in life.
I knew the customer's offspring for many years, when the boy arrived home from school dolled up in his uniform - including white shirt and tie. But unlike with me years earlier, he excelled, gained his A Levels and attended university and successfully graduated. With his degree, he settled down to a life as an accountant. With such credentials, Australia welcomed him with open arms, even though his visa took a long while to come through, as the USA also welcomed the equally well-educated sister. While I cleaned their windows, I was able to watch their often-mischievous children run around the house, engage in play and watch their favourite children's programmes on their grandparent's telly.
All this reminded me that there were times I wished I was able to emigrate. Given the choice, Australia would have been first, followed possibly by southern California, particularly San Diego. Back in 1994, I was even considering a long-stay spell in Israel, as a result of working as a volunteer at a Christian Conference Centre near Haifa, owned and operated by the Church of England. That didn't work out either, as I had to return home to England just after three months - a direct result of being booted out by the rest of the team, a diversity of English, a Scot, and three New Zealanders, including a married couple. But not a Jew among them, despite being in their country. Then again, I guess there is something about the English character which never appealed - an island culture of rabid nationalism, love of Royalty and the pageantry pomp that goes with it, social class, contempt for foreigners, Empire-oriented, power elitism, and the self-conceived divine right to police the rest of the world. Little wonder how relieved I always felt when England was knocked out of the World Cup international football tournament. I would dread the national arrogance arising from such a victory.
I consider myself fortunate when, at 46 years of age, I met Alex in church in 1998 and married less than a year later. Before then, as a bachelor, after I was dumped in 1972, no female took any interest in me at all. In fact, I found this rather mystifying, as I'm sure I wasn't that ugly. Rather, I was subject to teasing by any group of girls into their late teens or early twenties, whenever our paths crossed. I became aware that there was something wrong with my accent when talking, this particular area in my life I wasn't allowed to forget, as I was often mimicked by older men during my early days at work in the late 1960s. I believe it was this accent defect that had put many potential girlfriends off, made worse by a lack of proper education and no professional status. I would go as far to say that having had a professional career might have been enough to absolve my odd accent.
The wonderful feeling of love and acceptance my wife has always shown has made a massive impact in my life. From this I have come to discover and learn how to love a person so devoted to me. As a Christian believer, the answer to that was not elusive. I wanted to love her in the same way that Jesus Christ loves his church, an agape love which covers any faults or shortcomings. Now my wife lies ill in hospital, and according to the medical team, the cause might be from a spinal infection, however, this is yet to be proved. At the time of typing and posting of this blog, she is waiting to be transferred to a neurological ward at one of the country's top hospitals for proper diagnosis and, I hope, further and perhaps rapid treatment.
On one early morning this week I recall having a little cry as I sat alone in an otherwise empty house. In a way that has done me some good, as emotions are concerned, if I hit bottom, the only way is up. But adding further insult to injury, I had to cancel our holiday (vacation) in Crete that was meant to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Believe me, I feel gutted. This was something I never ever done before, and claiming on the insurance will be something new to me as well. The only panacea to help alleviate the horrible feeling is to take the week off work anyway, and try to occupy my spare time on a leisure activity such as gym, sauna, even a day trip to London, blogging and Internet browsing - and then making my way to the hospital to spend the late afternoon and evening at my wife's bedside.
Strange it seems, but lately I have seen far more dating couples in the street or in the train, petting or exchanging words of endearment, than when Alex was up and about. Also there seems to be a lot more 'planes hovering up in the sky, waiting in a stack to land at nearby London Heathrow Airport. Then, as I sat in the train on my way to visit Alex, at one of the stations is a huge advert board of a British Airways aeroplane, waiting to be taxied on to the runway. It is as if providence was deliberately teasing me, like a mischievous child holding up something he snatched from my hand, and yelling Nah! Nah! Nah-nah! Nah! -as he held it up high in full view and runs away. Then not to mention my good church friend away in Africa, and customers heading to the airport, even broadcasting over the radio - and scores of healthy, middle class folk enjoying life to the full, especially taking early Autumn breaks after the kids return to school.
In the morning, the Sunday we were meant to head for the airport, I shall be heading to my church to thank and to praise God for his goodness, love and mercy. If the prophet Habakkuk can do it so can I. He wrote this:
Thou the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crops fail and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour, The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.
It is interesting to note that the prophet's willingness to praise and thank God during adverse times was of his own choice. "I will be joyful in God" - he says, because of his knowledge of God's salvation. There is something about knowing the Lord which is above comprehension. Sure, this week I had a little cry one morning, yet just two days later, also early morning, I felt my heart rise as I read the 4th chapter of Romans, and I couldn't help but look up to the sky with a smile. Here Paul was using Abraham as an example of imputed righteousness from heaven given to all those who believe in their hearts that God rose Jesus from the dead. But there is more to this, I think. Habakkuk's secret was that he knew that the righteousness he had was imputed, and as a result, led to his belief in Eternal Security. Coming to think of it - Eternal Security, or OSAS if you prefer to think of it as such, is perhaps a major bulwark against adversity, allowing the sufferer to thank and praise the Lord, knowing about the eternal promise reserved for him in Heaven.
Dear brother or sister in Christ, if you are taught by your church, your literature, or from any other source that you cannot accept Eternal Security of the Believer as Biblical truth, then let me encourage you to read John chapter 10, Romans chapter 4 and chapter 8, and allow such beautiful words to nourish your spirit. Don't allow mere men, no matter how academic or well educated they may be, to block your assurance in the Lord.
While in hospital, Alex assured me of her "gut belief" in God raising Jesus Christ from the dead. She then referred to him as Lord. What more do I need for assurance that Alex my dear wife is eternally saved and secure in the Lord, whether she will go with me to church or not. Imputed righteousness - now that's something no trip to Crete, or even to Australia, can match!