When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Hundreds of years ago Saint Bernard of Clairvaux wrote a little book called On Loving God. It contains a tremendous amount of information regarding relationships. Modern day psychology is constantly offering its theories in lectures, books and snippets on television. We hang on what they say as if they have all the answers, but psychology cannot guarantee one size fits all. It reminds me of the pharmaceutical commercials that guarantee this pill will cure your whatever, however, be warned it might kill some.
Every relationship is different, just as each of us is different. To complicate matters we are always changing as our environment; other people, situations and circumstances constantly change our attitudes.
When two or more people engage in a relationship a third persona is born, the relationship itself. Everyone in the relationship contributes; some more, some less, some more sometimes and others more at other times.
The intrinsic value of the relationship depends on how much the people in the relationship are willing to invest in it. Dying to self, not demanding your rights, is a form of investing. Dying to self does not mean putting up with abuse or I’ll do this if you’ll do that or giving sex for love and love for sex. The tit for tat scenario is not sustainable.
Equality, that 50-50 idea is a random measurement on a constantly changing scale. Look at the divorce rate of our general population, and yes, for the experts in psychology as well as those who claim to be Christians. Relationships are not about demanding your rights as much as a willingness to die to self. Again, dying to self does not mean putting up with abuse.
Relationships demand participation, even if one is only giving 10% and the other 90%. Remember, relationships are fluid, changing, reshaping as we and our relationship, one flesh, interacts with one another and the world. The 90-10 ratio is not constant, it too will change, reverse, revert etc.
Just as the seasons come and go a season of coldness does not mean a season of renewal is not around the corner. Dependence and co-dependence often change as well as role reversals. We constantly learn and unlearn old myths as we grow and deepen our understanding. The passion of summer is not sustainable, but it can return again and again … if we are willing to die to self in a culture that says, “Me first.”
Two distinct individuals? You bet, building a mystical and wonderful union called relationship, similar to other relationships, yes, but as unique and beautiful as a snowflake.
Marriage is a great training ground for our relationship with the Lord. We learn our partner is a distinct individual with ideas and tastes unlike ourselves. They are not a reflection of us, but as we grow closer we learn this thing called relationship is much more than the sum of our parts.
“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Jesus, Mt 10:39