This month, Alan and I will be spending a few days in Wiltshire and Dorset. A break for us, and a chance to visit some of our old friends in an area, where, for many years, we lived and worked. Since moving away, busy-ness and distance have made visits difficult on both sides of the relationship. But now we’re retired, we have the freedom to go and stay, and spend time with our friends in person, rather than simply writing, emailing or telephoning. We all get great pleasure from catching up with each other.

Healthy relationships take time, thought and effort, yet it’s far too easy to take them for granted. That’s especially true of long-term relationships, after the initial relationship building is done. There is, too, a great deal in our modern day lives that can get in the way of how we relate: long and often stressful work hours; financial strain; the pressure to fill our leisure hours with all sorts of exciting activities; and we mustn’t forget modern technology which seems to demand our attention 24/7.

Time for others requires more than just our physical presence. We aren’t truly present to another person, for example, if we are always on the phone or the computer when with them, or if our mind is always somewhere else. We need, at least some of the time, to give our partners, our children, our wider family, and our friends, our full attention, listening to them and valuing their presence with us. Only by paying attention will we be aware of the other’s needs and where they might need more help and support from us. Equally, only by paying attention will we be able to understand just what others do for us and value what they give us. Page 5 in the May Beacon gives details of ways2pray – a day for people to find out more about prayer. For our relationship with God also includes making the effort to spend time with him. Here, also, it’s by giving attention to him and listening to him, that we come to know what he has done, and still does for us, and what he might be saying to us. Yet, of all our relationships it is possibly this one that is the most likely to get pushed out of our lives. All our relationships have an effect on us, some are life-changing. The theme of the May Beacon is weddings and those of us who are married, or who are planning marriage, would surely say that it’s a truly life changing relationship. But those who have come to know God, who spend time with him, know that this is the most life-changing relationship of all.

Joy Elkins