We humans are instinctively relational. We are made for relationships. ‘No man is an island,’ wrote John Donne. From the very beginning, God said: ‘It is not good that man should be alone – I will make him a helper as his partner.’ (Genesis 2:18) Relationships are critical in spirituality and in the ministry at the Heart of Life Centre.
True relationship is defined by forgiveness and fidelity. In a true friendship, we may well feel loved and supported, but we do not relate solely for that reason. We don’t relate to another for the sake of whatever benefit we receive from the relationship. Forgiveness and fidelity are selfless: both focus outside of ourselves, solely on the other person. We forgive another person and we stand by another for no other reason than that they are good things to do. They are values in themselves. The surest sign of God’s Spirit at work is that one’s relationships flourish.
Indeed, I believe that genuine presence to another, standing by another person faithfully is a sacrament, a symbol of divine presence, a gift of God’s grace. Not that I am consciously thinking of God’s being with us when I am with someone. Rather, I refer to my desire to relate without ego, without any self-interest. In all my relationships, whether as carer or partner or friend or stranger, I try to put aside all my pre-conceived ideas (sometimes even my prejudices) about the other person, all my expectation about our being together. I choose to put aside all ego and allow the other person to be who they are. Such selfless focus on the other person, agape, is inherent to the contemplative way. Whether I am contemplating a beautiful rose or a passage from the Bible, or another person, my focus is entirely on the other, entirely outside of myself.
That is the sacrament that I see in our relationships: I am meeting God in that moment of selfless presence to the other person.