The potential in real relationships

Earlier this week I finished reading Cynthia Bourgeault’s remarkable book ‘Love is Stronger than Death’. In it she describes the powerful relationship she had with Brother Raphael Robin. Much of her spiritual teaching now, 20 years later, continues to be the fruit of that relationship. It was truly transformation and sacred. Both Cynthia and Rafe were pulled out of themselves, drawn into true love, and drawn into the mystery of God.

Against the backdrop of seeing the true potential in a love relationship, I have also been reading the continuing dialogue in the Roman Catholic Church over divorce and other issues raised in the Synod on the Family. As I read the reports of those trying so desperately to cling to the absolute truths, it occurs to me that we are looking in the wrong direction. We don’t need more sermons on the sacredness of marriage – we need to focus on the potential in relationship.

If we focus more on the sacramental nature of relationship – the power of relationship to transform us and to redeem us – we are more likely to choose better and to step up into the relationship.

Obviously, this is dangerous territory for me to be exploring – I am single! But one of my friendships has this kind of mutual transformational quality. There is a huge qualitative difference in the particular friendship – it draws me out of myself; I have been forced to face some of my shadows; I am able to challenge, and I am challenged in return. And we are both the better for it.

If we are able to focus more on the power of true, mutual relationship, all relationships would benefit. The absolute line of the evil of divorce is thrown into appropriate relief. Some relationships are better terminated.

The affirmation of the sacredness of marriage is a good thing. But not for its own sake. The sacredness of marriage lies in the nature of the relationship between the two getting married not in fact of the marriage. Too many people marry because of the attraction to the illusion of the white picket fence and two and a half kids. Marriage, at its best, will allow one to become fully oneself – which will probably mean living a life which doesn’t quite fit the image of domestic bliss.

Can we not focus more on what it is that we are truly trying to strive towards and less on the outward appearance?


3 thoughts on “The potential in real relationships

  1. So true. I say: ‘Amen’. Such relationships you experience with all your senses. It keeps you focussed in the moment. You do not have time to dwell or gossip, but you truely live the experience of the relationship. It embraces you with its love and honesty.

  2. “Some relationships are better terminated.” This is very difficult to accept but very true. Such was the case with my marriage – I would never have left but I know now that it was good for me that my former spouse left. God has given me the freedom to be myself and I am so blessed by deep friendships that are transformational. Thank you for this post.

  3. Many years ago I read a book by Mary Hunt in which she argued that the normative relationship for churches should not be marriage, but friendship. As someone who has been married for nearly 30 years and considers this an unexpected blessing, I can only say ‘amen’ to Mary’s statement. The importance of friendship is hardly ever mentioned at church while it should be the basis of all our relationships including marriage.

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