Answering God – 40 Days with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
Day 24 – Tuesday after 4th Sunday of Lent
A long-term relationship brings tensions as well as fulfilment.
If your relationship with your partner is under strain, seek help in understanding the other’s point of view and in exploring your own feelings, which may be powerful and destructive.
Consider the wishes and feelings of any children involved, and remember their enduring need for love and security.
Seek God’s guidance.
If you undergo the distress of separation or divorce, try to maintain some compassionate communication so that arrangements can be made with the minimum of bitterness.
(Advices & Queries #25)
From the Scriptures:
Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
It is a truism that when people enter into intimate loving relationships that ‘the two become one flesh’. My experience is that, when a relationship founders, particularly when it is submerged in acrimony, accusation and misunderstanding the reverse does not occur. The ‘one’ does not become ‘two’ again, as if the issuing of a Decree Nisi was some kind of magic wand for winding the clock back and erasing the past at the same time. When relationships break down it is much more a case of ‘the one becomes two halves’, and two battered and bleeding halves at that.
There are occasions when separation and divorce is essential to the good health of one or both partners and, on occasion, I have helped couples to do so, but this does not mean it is ever easy or pleasant. I know of many happily married and partnered couples, I do not know of that many ‘happily’ divorced couples.
So we turn to today’s Advices and Scripture reading.
Just as forming a covenant relationship is a holy task so is what we do when they face troubled times and even dissolution. We must take off our shoes as we stand before the burning bush of a once enriching passion that may easily flame into an anger that burns all within its reach.
The Advices are clear;
Seek help. We do not have to struggle through the challenges our intimate relationships bring us alone. There is no shame in admitting to our human frailty or to our fears of what may happen to us if things are allowed to persist as they are.
It takes two. This may not always be the case, but in almost all challenges a couple face in their loving each other both of them may be able to do things differently to improve life (or make them worse). We need to tread carefully and in humility recognise that [our] own feelings.. may be powerful and destructive. Even if we are the ‘innocent’ party.
Remember the Children. In a previous generation couples would often stay together in loveless hurtful relationships ‘for the sake of the children’. This would not always be good for children who grew up in a poisonous unhealthy environment. Sometimes separation is better sooner rather than later. But whenever it happens (if it happens), children still need to see both their parents as heroes who are fighting for them rather than villains who are so much at each other’s throats that they cannot see how their anger wounds their younglings.
Pray. It is an aphorism that ‘The couple who pray together stay together’ but praying together puts us in our place; at each other’s side and at the feet of the One Who Loves us Best. Who is also the One who wants to show us how to love each other better.
If we can’t kiss and make up at least make up. I firmly believe that we never truly leave any relationship. We continue to participate in every single relationship we have ever had. Those who gave us life, who taught us our lessons, whom we have worked alongside, whom we have loved (and even hated) continue to make us who we are. We need to learn to relate to each of them in a healthy way even if they are no longer physically present. Their ghosts, the words they spoke, the things they did, become the voices that spin around in our heads. For the sake of my own peace of mind I know I need to develop some form of compassionate communication with them or I will always fall short on my quest for healing and wholeness.
The apostle’s words leave no room for manoeuvre ‘be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another’. If we do not that is a slap in the face of the Crucified One who in the middle of His pain and with His final breath forgave us.
I would rather couples grew stronger in their love for each other.
I would rather all children would be able to watch over and cherish their parents as they grow old together.
But if that is not to be then let’s always be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another
All you who sleep tonight
Far from the ones you love,
No hand to left or right,
And emptiness above…
Know that you aren’t alone.
The whole world shares your tears,
Some for two nights or one,
And some for all their years.
1) Read slowly the note from ‘Advices & Queries’ above again
2) Jesus says ‘When you pray, forgive’. Forgive someone today.
Quotes from ‘Advices & Queries’ are copyright © The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain, 1995, 1997 and 2008
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Prayers from ‘Prayers for Hard Times’ are copyright © Becca Anderson 2017
These Reflections, ‘Answering God’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 – and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged