I know it has been quite a while since I’ve written anything here. A lot of it has to do with finding time. Then it’s finding inspiration. Then it’s finding the stamina to see it through and not let nitpicky editor get in the way. (Believe me when I say I have the seeds of plenty of things to discuss in the future.) Thankfully there was something brought up recently that provided the right amount of pants kicking to write the following.
Behold, I shall tell three tales of three couples.
The first actually starts with a horrible breakup. The broken-hearted man leaves her place to lick and mend his wounds to face his tomorrows. Thankfully, he works at a job that keeps him both simulated and occupied. But hurt is still hurt. As he is recovering, he has these fleeting encounters with a woman who looks very similar to his previous lover. These coincidences soon leads to a formal encounter and through a series of small actions, a new relationship is forged. Fun times are to be had, thoughts are exchanged and emotions are shared. But then the good times soon turn to stressful times as they become more familiar with each other, including their low points. Misunderstandings cause tension and tension causes strain and strain will eventually lead to another breakdown. He ends up where he started.
The second involves a professor at a well-known institution of higher learning (you can guess all you want … the true answer and the point will be revealed anyway). While extremely knowledgeable about his subject matter, he treats it and his students with scorn and mild contempt. He has a reputation of being a smart alleck and he always rides the line of being brilliant and being detestable. This changes when he sees one of the librarians playing with a chess board. A quick game soon leads to a regular game play between them. From this game play, an unspoken friendship forms and a change occurs in him. One day, while trying to express the depths of his gratitude, it leads to confusion. This confusion turns contentious and both he and the friendship break. At his low, he begins to realize he needed to be clearer as well as truthful with her. He writes to her revealing all about himself and even explain why he acted the way he did. In the end, he has moved on from it a changed man: a man more himself.
The third occurs in a Serbian Orthodox parish (all of these take place in America). There is a new choir director who is clearly not Serbian and was not even born into the faith. There are those in the parish who are skeptical of him because of this. Nevertheless, his skill, talent and drive to make the choir a better one produces a result that many favor immediately. The few who have issues with him – and mostly beyond just him alone – are determined to stop him by any means necessary. They do so by spreading a slanderous rumor involving him and the parish’s ever-dutiful sacristan. She herself is very quiet and even withdrawn from almost everyone. Yet her deeds are well known. This slander begins to bring doubt for the director and yet he maintains his innocence and continues his mission. Eventually, he proves himself more than capable of leading the choir and serving the parish. In the meantime, the accusation take a toll on her and leads to an angry confrontation turned confession: she had fallen for him from the beginning. They end up spending the whole evening talking and their relationship has changed from casual acquaintance to something potentially deeper.
These tales are not necessarily parables but they do carry insight on how one can relate to another in a complete, total and, yes, intimate manner. In the first one, emotions drove the relationship and, in particular, it was the “high”. It starts out rosy and fun as everything is fresh and exciting. That leads to that feeling of euphoria where the endorphins seem to saturate the brain and everything feels wonderful. But time wears out the novelty and with every sharp step, there’s a dull thud. Emotions alone cannot endure.
There’s nothing wrong with euphoria in a relationship for it is icing on the cake of love-life. But you cannot make a cake purely out of icing. (That’s what the jar is for … but even then, you’ll regret it later). Emotions in general are akin to the phases of the moon: one night it’s bright and full and two weeks later, it’s completely in shadow. To expect a relationship to last for the duration based on a single moment that is not constant is to set one’s self up for failure. And in that moment of truth, you do one of three things: break it then and find someone else; try to “keep the high going” with that person (and more often than not, it will result in stunted emotional growth for both parties and in the relationship); forge the relationship on something that will endure through the wax and wanes of time like friendship, trust, honesty, respect, and loyalty (and all the above).
In the second one, it was lack of communication that created the tensions between them. As he was quite reserved and not prone to opening himself up to others, this created confusion for the other party. For her, he was a guy – known as a jerk (to put it mildly) – whom she could play chess. For him, she represented an ideal to pursue. He never revealed this nor himself to her. Thus his expression created confusion for her, which he then took as rejection and thus withdrawing himself even more into his shell. When the consequences of his actions were grave, he had to make the right choice by admitting to her and not to himself the ways and intentions of his heart. Then and only then could any relationship be salvaged.
Finally, we get to the third one. While things like attraction and mutual interests – and unfortunately, a scheme that slandered both of them – it was their shared faith that would further develop their relationship. The other two met by circumstances and future circumstances could either keep them together or drive them apart. Circumstances play a role here as well, but they know it’s more than just “living in a moment”. There is an end goal in mind: their salvation. This is not merely some exoneration from the mouth of hell. This is ultimately about living as we were created to be: in communion with God, not as His slaves but rather as His children.
Before they met, they were working out their salvation (mostly likely with fear and trembling). Each of them had their own strengths and weakness and each had to deal with life as they could either grow closer to God or further from Him. When they first talking in a deeper way than just mere surface pleasantries, they subconsciously started asking each other this question: can I help save you? This is not to say that they are the authors of this project as that’s for Christ alone. But could their interactions help each other get closer to God? It can only be answered fully with persistence and commitment to that end goal. This means being steadfast even when it seems difficult, being humble especially when it calls for it, being patient especially when it seems even more difficult and, above all else, being loving in all times.
My final thought on all of this would be to consider the strong difference between the first and the third. While the first has no hopes of lasting for a considerable duration, let alone a lifetime, it is the relationship that’s hailed by the Western secular culture as the one to pursue. The third is not immediately glamorous – and even has its own moments that could be viewed as drama – and it may seem obscure, I’d like to think it’s practiced more often than others may think.
Oh and by the way, if you really want to know what these tales really are: http://relate3.com. The first one is called On Nights Like This, the second All That We Are and the third Walk in Silence. Told you I was a busy man.