I was providing taxi services for a friend of mine one Thursday and as I dropped him off in Creggan I drove home. Journeying along Westway I passed my Alma Mater St Joseph’s Boys’ School.
In an effort to avoid the traffic I drove down through Rosemount, Park Avenue and the Glen until I found myself turning the Gander’s Neck before having to wait at the traffic lights at the junction with the Northland Road.
As I made my way down the Duncreggan Road the thought struck me of how nearly twenty years ago in 1992 I had to walk along the same route to school as I sat my GSCEs. It was always a great way to clear my head and organise my thoughts particularly if an exam was in the afternoon. It depended on how the studying was going, if I was in a blind panic I would have asked my father for a lift because every last second was of value.
Sitting in my room avoiding the books I often would have gazed out the window over Carnhill, Shantallow, Galliagh and Ballymagraorty towards the Donegal hills. Grianan Fort never looked as attractive as I spent long hours taking notes trying to memorise all the important information I have spent the rest of my life forgetting.
Even the thought of walking the five or six miles seemed a more enjoyable possibility compared to the chore of flicking through textbooks and catching up on work which should have been done months ago.
Many a sleepless night was spent trying to make up for lost or wasted time and the more I battled with cabin fever the more the lure of the outside world and the big green spaces of the far off fields and hills seemed to call.
Far off fields never seemed greener; in fact my bedroom was never tidier as I spent more time in delaying tactics than actually settling down to doing a bit of studying.
Little did I know I would spend the next ten years sitting exams in one form or another, in Derry, Belfast and Maynooth. Always the same blind panic as everything was left to the last moment, midnight vigils became the norm and any excuse to find distraction or maintain your sanity was welcome.
The spring and summer of 2003 was the last time I sat a formal exam, making sure I served a proper apprenticeship. Since then I have been able to enjoy the month of May. Of course the old stresses have been replaced by different worries, pressures and anxieties, but such is life.
We all find ourselves confronted by trials in some form or fashion; these are more difficult to prepare for.
The occasions when we’re challenged what preparations have we put in place to help us to endure and survive the struggles of life? Or do we leave everything until the moment of crisis and hope to discover extra strength, relying on miracles and unexpected interventions?
Jesus doesn’t leave anything to chance as he tries to prepare his disciples for his return to the Father. He reassured them and encourages them not to lose faith in his presence even when he has gone from their sight.
He has to return to the Father to prepare a way for us. Jesus in his humanity brings our human nature into the mystery of God. Jesus has overcome any distance between us and God.
By going ahead of us he will ensure we will be guided through the sending of the Holy Spirit who remains with God’s Church, Christ’s Body through all ages and times.
Yet to be part of this great mystery we have to allow God to journey with us.
We have to make the time and effort to build up a relationship with God or we will fail to recognise his presence in the world.
The truth of any relationship is being able to put in the commitment and the energy to ensure it is real and built on solid foundations.
If we have done this then our faith in Jesus Christ will be founded on rock and not sand. Jesus introduces us into the life of his Father because he and the Father are one and to have seen Jesus is to have seen the Father.
The mutual gift of the Holy Spirit sent by both ensures we still can encounter the reality of God in the here and now.
God remains with us in our pain and struggles, in the trials and disappointments we encounter in life.
Unless we seek him on a regular basis, unless we know how to open our minds and hearts to his approach we will find ourselves tossed about on the stormy seas of life without knowing how and where to look for help.
Now, in this present time is the moment of opportunity to allow God to come close and guide and support us through our journey in life.