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Our search for understanding

Life lived in relationship

I was on a very important quest a few weeks ago. My search took me to a favorite bookstore, where I spent considerable time browsing the shelves. I was looking for a resource that might be helpful in assisting some of the married couples with whom I visit who have encountered difficulties in their marriages. Over the course of about two hours, I spent time skimming through what seemed to be a nearly endless supply of books that reflect on marriages – both good and bad. The marriage section of the shelves was but a small portion of a much larger array of books that all focused on relationships of one form or another. The amount of ink and paper in that one section of one bookstore was a good reminder of just how important relationships are to each of us.

Relationships can be pretty amazing, and we are fooling ourselves if we think we can somehow avoid them. From the moment of our conception until the time we die, we live an interconnected web of relationships. We are born into the relationships we have with our parents, siblings and extended families. We are baptized into relationship with God and the whole Christian community. In time, we have the opportunity to choose certain relationships – be they friends or spouses, while we learn to leave others behind. We learn to navigate the waters of the relationships in which we have little or no choice – especially those that come through associations at work and other circumstances.

With each of our relationships comes the responsibility, the joy and the pain of learning to understand and live them more deeply. The skills we learn in one relationship – perhaps with our parents – help us in the relationships we have with extended family, friends, co-workers – even God. The reverse is also true – living in right relationship with God helps us to live in better relationship with the people who surround us. In time, we learn what works well and nurtures our relationships. Conversely, we also learn what can be damaging, limiting and even death-dealing. Relationships, human and divine, require trial and error and no small amount of on-the-job training.

While many seem content (and rightly so) to turn to older relationship gurus for advice and insight, I think we are missing a wonderful opportunity to learn from those who are younger in years but no less filled with relationship wisdom. Tara Devereaux is a good example. At the urging of her mother, Tara attended a week-long retreat. Tara’s retreat experience positively impacted each of her relationships. In strengthening her relationship with God, the rest of her relationships have benefited. Neil Atzinger used the wisdom he learned in the relationship with his parents as a way of entering into a deeper relationship with God. Jarrett Patterson, relying on strong relationships with family, friends, teachers and God, has begun a community clothing outreach that is changing the lives of many young people in his hometown.

The wisdom offered by so many young people and their relationship experience is this: Each of our human relationships is an opportunity to be led into a deeper relationship with God, and in seeking a deeper relationship with God, we are given the grace to grow in relationship with one another. Growing in relationship with God and one another is a beautiful upward spiral, leading us from this world to the next. And so our journey in FAITH continues.