I accidently realised at the end of January that 20 years ago I had not long arrived in Bedford, originally coming to work at the Nightshelter (King's Arms Project). I arrived on my third year placement from Moorlands College, as a youth and communities studies student recognising the unique potential of seeing at first hand a work that showed commitment to the community. I had briefly visited for one evening in December 1995, immediately being asked to help Simon Allen get a somewhat inebriated gentleman from the front door to his bed. This may seem odd, but from this point I was hooked.
So a very few weeks later, on a cold and wet January day, I remember coming to the shelter on my first day, walking from the train station as I had crashed my car the week before. I knocked and the door slowly opened to reveal the lone worker on duty in the shelter that afternoon. I am privileged to say that over the 20 years since, this man has become one of my closest friends, and I love that God gave me something so significant on that first day in Bedford, not that I really knew it at that point.
Reflecting on what seems such a significant anniversary, I find that this is often the case, not seeing the significance or blessing of something till much later. Honestly, since 1996 my time in Bedford has been mixed to say the least- with great days and sad days- professionally moving from Project to probation, youth offending and now central Bedfordshire council. Some great highs, significant lows personally, amazing friends; some have come and gone, and come back again, so many valued and appreciated. Not all of the events make sense at the time, like being in Bedford to meet my American wife, or being ill leading to truly good things.
In realising that 20 years had passed, I was genuinely surprised, somehow this anniversary had passed me by. But in reflecting on the time, I am so grateful for everything I have been given through being in Bedford. More than ever I am mindful of this analogy; life being a tapestry which has many threads, with many colours go to make up its picture. A picture made of such rich vivid colours and yet also dark and shaded threads running throughout. I understand that when focussing on a single thread, I miss the whole, the fuller picture God is giving me.
For the dark and the light, the sadness and joy- simply I would say looking back to view the whole picture, not the individual strands, the 20 years have been a rich and varied tapestry; but it has made a great picture. Context is everything, seeing the whole picture points to the extent of his grace and faithfulness toward me.
Psalm 111 v2-5 Great are the works of the Lord, they are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endure for ever.