Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

Marriage as spiritual adventure

Monday, April 19th, 2010

So, what did I end up telling the newlyweds? Here it is. I addressed them specifically, but I’ve left there names out here.

To fall in love is to project the best part of ourselves and even our longings for God on another person. When we do, that person becomes the bearer of everything we long for and consider holy. But that is the experience of love from one end of the pendulum’s swing left and right. When the reality of the other sets in, love can turn to disillusionment. No life experience can be more trying, unless we learn to love the other person as they truly are.

This is the profound psychological and spiritual reality that lies behind the theology of the readings that we have heard tonight —- readings that explore the divine origins of love; the enduring character that should mark that love; and the rich dimensions of love between a husband and a wife.

The occasional difficulties that we experience in distinguishing between the projections and the realities, as well as the process of growth that it requires, should not concern you. Oh, to be sure, you will make mistakes. You will expect more of one another than you should. You will want another to meet needs that you cannot satisfy. And, from time to time, you will fail to love one another as you should.

But these are not the mistakes made by climbers living on the edge of a precipice, where the slightest miscalculation could lead to disaster. These are the mistakes we make living “on the border of the Holy.” The mistakes made in wonder and joy. The process of finding balance, stepping gently, and offering a hand to the one we love as we climb together is a part of the adventure.

And herein lies the key to enduring relationships. Love is not simply a matter of emotion and still less simply a matter of fulfilling needs. At its heart love is the nurture of wisdom, the shaping of a life narrative in which we embrace one another in gentleness and care; listen deeply; and nurture one another into the presence of God.

It is the merciful transformation of two lives as they learn more about one another and their God. We start by projecting those golden characteristics upon the one we love, because we know that we need more.

So, these are days of great beginnings: of new-found companionship; the adventure of shaping a shared identity; the joy of creating memories that only the two of you will share. The only greater days are the days when you will find yourselves fully in the presence of God. Along the way you will glimpse the possibility. Yes, you will see one another in a more human light, but that seeing will be grounded in God’s greater love for you both and in the wisdom that only God can give.

God’s keeping, dear friends.

(The opening observation is paraphrased from the work of Robert Johnson, though I have made a similar observation over the years.)

Hell is other people, sometimes

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Famously, Jean-Paul Sartre declared that “Hell is other people.” The observation, which is made in a play called “No Exit,” portrays the conversation between three people who are isolated in a room by a valet who accompanies them there. They expect to be tortured or punished for the lives that they have led, but instead they discover that they are there to torment one another and they do. When one of them cries out, the door is opened, but none of them avail themselves of the opportunity to leave.

An existentialist and an atheist, Sartre believed that the only way in which we could define ourselves was in a masochistic desire to be limited by encounters with others. Small wonder he thought other people were hell.

In the Christian tradition, people can certainly be hell. But that’s not what God intends. The best of God-given relationships are those that nurture our growth in God.

Not all friendships are capable of doing that, of course. They vary in their depth and length of connection. They vary in the extent to which they allow for self-disclosure and meaningful conversation. But to the extent that they nurture God’s presence, they can be a bit of heaven.

Find and nurture that kind of friendship. Be that kind of friend.