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Hear O Israel

July 8, 2010 7 comments

Shema (image by Yaniv Ben-Arie used by Creative Commons)

Lately I’ve been thinking aloud about listening. I’ve been talking about the different forms of listening like empathic listening, active listening, ethnographic listening. Along the way, I’ve made a bunch of mental notes, and I’m having a hard time keeping up with them.

I remembered a story about listening while I took a shower this morning. It seems I always remember things while in the shower. Sometimes I wonder if I might find a lost set of keys by simply taking a shower. Anyway, back to the remembered story.

Shortly after Kelly and I were married, she noticed a peculiar habit of mine (one among many). I pointed at food during our meals. We would be talking about the day’s events when I would point at the bread. She handed me the bread, and then I’d point to the butter.

At my folks house, she noticed everyone pointed during the meal. After about a month, she asks me, “What’s with all this pointing during the meal times?” No one had ever asked me, so I never even thought about it before.

“Well, my dad likes to tell stories, and he doesn’t like to be interrupted. So in my family, we just started pointing at food instead of asking someone to pass it.”

I grew up listening to my dad’s stories. And in many ways, I’m a better storylistener than storyteller. People tell me their stories. And I like to listen.

But listening is not always easy.

I don’t like the telephone because it’s too easy for me to get distracted from listening. Without the person in front of me, my mind wanders so easily. A friend is talking on the phone. He is trying to remember a mutual acquaintance. “Old so and so. What was his name?”

As he continues talking, all I can hear is, “old so and so.” Only in my mind’s eye, I see the words, “sew and sew.” I see a big pair of scissors opening and closing. Then I see them up on an old Cas Walker building on Broadway. The neon scissors are opening and closing as they cut prices. I hear Cas say, “Shop at the sign of the shears.”

Sign of the shears. That sounds funny. What if the big scissors were atop the Sears building on Central? “Shop at the sign of the Sears.”

I’m slipping. I see a flashing neon light over a steakhouse, “At the Sign of the Steers.” I tumbling down into Alice’s Wonderland of Rhyme when suddenly me friends’ voice breaks the fall, “So what do you think?”

Think? Oh great. What was he talking about? I scramble. “Well, what do you think?” he starts up again. Whew, that was close. I must concentrate. Pay attention.

Like I said, listening can be hard.

Back in Jesus’ day, the Pharisees were a bit hard of hearing as well. They kept misunderstanding what he said. When he told the story of Israel and God’s purposes for His people, He told it in a way that sounded different.

“What is he up to?,” some of them queried suspiciously. They didn’t trust him. Then again, they didn’t trust his Father either. Isaiah told Israel as much. He warned that they would become blind, deaf and lame like the idols they trusted.

One day a Pharisee asks Jesus what is the greatest of the commands. Jesus replies, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” He responds by reciting the “Shema.”

Israel recited, prayed and even posted this command in the Mezuzah they placed in their doorways. Shema comes from the Hebrew word for prayer. First and foremost, the Israelite must hear.

As Jesus speaks, he is not simply repeating Moses’ age old command. He is the Word Made Flesh. And he is the Son of Man who truly obeys the command. He hears and obeys.

As Jesus speaks, it is with the same power and authority of God as He spoke at creation, “Let there be Light.” And there was light. Jesus says, “Hear O Israel.” Even as he speaks the power of God is present to heal deaf ears and mute tongues. When man can no longer hear the Word of God, he loses his power to speak as well. His words fall like powerless chatter.

As we read the story, Jesus’ word, “Hear O Israel” steps out from the page and breaks into our heart. He is speaking directly to us. We are the deaf ones. He is restoring our hearing, and He is engrafting us into Israel. When He says, “Hear O Israel,” we are included.

His Living Word breaks into upon our deaf ears, giving us ears to hear. For only in “Hearing” the Word can we believe. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom 10:17). Now oddly enough, this makes me think of a science fiction movie I recently watched called, Moon.

In the story, one man lives on a moon station with no other humans. He has been working there for almost three years and will soon finish his commitment and get to return to earth. But there is a problem. Everything his believes about his world is wrong. He is bind and deaf to what is real, and it will take another voice outside himself to reveal this.

We are like this man working alone on the moon. We have limited knowledge of our world. At any given moment, our perceptions are limited and distorted by our own feelings and responses to the events around us. We misunderstand ourselves and the people around us. We hold grudges; we struggle against bitterness; we remember too many sorrows and not enough joys. We are incapable loving perfectly.

Jesus calls out, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Mark 12:29-31).

He breaks into our self-contained world with His Word of Truth, His Word of Life. He says, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” And acknowledging our complete inability to obey the Father, He answers the command. Jesus, the Son of Man, responds to the call of God and He Loves the Father with all His heart, soul, mind and strength. He loves his neighbor as himself (see John 15:12).

So we rest in Him. We live in Him. We love in Him. By His Spirit, He heals our deaf ears, He anoints our blind eyes, He leads us step by step into a world of truth beyond our distorted perceptions. Through His healing touch, I learn to listen to people around me. I learn to hear them as He hears them. I learn to love as He loves.

He keeps speaking through His Word. He keeps transforming me in His Spirit. He keeps leading me into the love and glory and life of His life in the Father, Son and Spirit.

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:20-26)

Family Vacation

June 22, 2010 2 comments

Floyd Family Vacation 2010

Last week I shared a house with the 14 people in my family. Parents, siblings, nieces and nephews ate together, played together, fought together and lived together in close quarters for seven days. It’s been well over 20 years since I went on family vacation, and back then only five of us packed up the Bonneville and travelled to the beach.

I was delighted to play with my nieces and nephews, and I was enriched by the simplicity of just spending time with family. The simple act of “spending time” together is pure gift. Oh that we might see the real gifts instead of the false ones.

Six years ago, I dedicated a blog to my beach vacation. This year, I’ll simply record a few moments from the week on this blog.

Categories: Family, Relationships Tags:

Sunshine Cleaning, Pearl Diver, I’ve Loved You For So Long

February 2, 2010 1 comment
Elsa Zylberstein and Kristin Scott Thomas in I've Love You For So Long

Elsa Zylberstein and Kristin Scott Thomas in I've Love You For So Long

In the last few months, I’ve watched three films that explore the relationship between sisters who are coping with a death in the background. I’ve Loved You For So Long, Pearl Diver and Sunshine Cleaning all tells bittersweet stories of relationship, love and profound loss. Often when I watch a film, I look at the film against a backdrop of another film to help highlight contrasts and similarities of the varying stories.

I’ve Loved You For So Long is a French that begins with one sister being released from prison. Shot in muted colors the cinematography captures the inward grief of the Juliette Fontaine. Played superbly by Kristen Scott Thomas, Juliette exemplifies a life turned in upon itself. Her face reads grief, emptiness, isolation, and the colors and images reinforce this overshadowing sadness that closes her heart to life. This aching ex-convict rebuilds her life in the midst of the lives of her sister’s family, including a husband, a child, and mute grandfather.

In the conversations with her sister, we discover a deeply strained relationship across many years. We discover that the parents considered Juliette as dead and no longer even spoke of her. We discover the reason for her imprisonment: murder. She killed her child. This memory haunts every conversation, every relationship, every place. She walks in a world of death. Even though all her relationships are strained, we watch as a mute grandfather and a little child bring her back to life and unveil the secret her child’s murder. I won’t disclose the ending, but the story resolves in a deeply poignant way that reinforces the beauty of human life.

Pearl Diver also depicts two sisters reuniting after years of separation. Prison does not separate them, but a murder does. The murder of their Mennonite mother sends the young girls along two very different paths in life. Hannah Eberly leaves the Mennonite faith of her youth, becomes a writer, and appears to life an adult life of struggle, haunted by painful memories of her youth. Rebecca Miller, the older sister, embraces the faith and lifestyle of her Mennonite upbringing, and spends her adult life seeking for a pardon of the man who is convicted of killing her mom. Hannah consistently opposes her sisters actions and fights for his imprisonment to the end of his life.

Rebecca’s daughter nearly dies after falling into farming equipment. This tragic accident reunites the sisters, and flames shared memories of childhood. As they seek to help Rebecca’s daughter find treatment for the wound in her head, they must also face the wound in their own heads. Hannah writes a novel that exposes the brutal murder of her mother, as Rebecca responds in horror that ancient secrets are coming to light, she enters into the light of remembering. Once again, I won’t unravel the mystery of the mother’s murder, but in right remembering, there is healing for all.

Last weekend, I watched Sunshine Cleaning, a tale of two sisters cleaning up crime scenes while remembering the bloody scene of their own mother’s suicide. In this tragicomic tale, both sisters are scarred by the death. Neither is married, both are used by men (and the film follow a popular Hollywood trend of showing men exploit both women sexually), and both women are struggling to survive–financially as well as emotionally. They embark upon a new path of crime scene clean-up. While the film has a few light moments, the tragic overwhelms the comic, and the sunshine vanishes in a cloud of unresolved pain. While this sad tale is true for many people, I think it fails to draw upon the power of narrative and memory to find resolution. The characters live in the cloud of their mother’s death but they never really face the memory and they never find resolution. As the film ends, I have no reason to expect that they won’t continue to be used and exploited by men.

This trio of films highlights the power of shared memories and stories that envelope all our relationships. We might not face the grieve of murders, but we all have memories that haunt us our relationships and our vision of the world. The films reveal the power of memories and the power to retell our stories and recast our memories. The first two films in particular shine light light into the potential power of telling our stories to one another and listening to one another.

As I think about the sad and beautiful longing in these films for right relationships and better worlds, I think the role of the Holy Spirit in the Gospels. Jesus tells his disciples that one reason the Spirit comes is to help them remember. In fact, Hans Urs Von Balthasar goes so far as to say that “retrospective remembering and anamnesis (loss of forgetfulness) constitutes the basis of understanding anything.” He talks about how the disciples could not see Jesus when he was in front of them. But in remembering, they could finally see him by the power of the Spirit as the Son of God.

Remembering plays a vital role in the Old and New Testament. The ancient Hebrews forget who they are while serving in slavery to Pharaoh. But God remembers them. In resurrecting them, he will tell them again and again to “remember.”  They are to re-member, re-hearse, re-tell the stories of deliverance, the stories of creation, the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

In the New Testament, Jesus teaches his disciples to remember by the power of His Spirit. But this remembering is not simply looking back, but it is re-telling or re-calling past events in light of Christ. The disciples on the Road to Emmaus learn how to remember the Old Testament stories in light of Christ. In so doing, they realize all the events of the Old Testament are pointing to Jesus.

I would suggest that all three films have tapped into the pain of forgetfulness in human relationships and human communities. We’ve forgotten who we are. We’ve forgotten what binds us together. We’ve remembered wrongly and in ways that will further divide and not unite. The first two films reveal that remembering often constitutes relearning our history through a new light. But the last film shows our tendency to face painful memory and turn away without resolve. I fear so much in our world call us to distraction as a means for dealing with our pains, our struggles, our brokenness. Distractions offers no lasting hope. But deep memory, especially memory in light of the healing power of the Holy Sprit can restore and heal old relationships. We may still struggle , we may still limp, but we move toward hope in light of Christ.

Patterns, Progress, and Lifespans

June 19, 2008 Leave a comment

I’ve written before about the idea of how each of our lives represents a span of time that we called a Lifetime or Lifespan. In one sense, each of us live within a particular time because we have particular memories and particular visions. We move in time between memory and vision. This particular movement between memory and vision unfolds in our language, our responses, our actions in the world around us.

If I remember being bit by dogs in the past and I expect that encounters with dogs in the future could result in being bit, then I will have specific responses to the dog in front of me right now that will be different from someone with a differnt timespan of memory and vision in relation to dogs.

But our lifetime is not determined in this sense because surprises can happen. One friend told me that she had a fear of dogs her whole life. While visiting family, she was sitting a bed when the family dog slipped and started to fall from the bed. She instantly responded by catching the dog to break the fall. This act changed her response to dogs. In a single action, she changed and became someone else.

We live within one time, but some-times we can step out of time and change, entering a new time (new memory and vision).

With that said, I do think that there are patterns common to all lifetimes (or most lifetimes). James Jordan suggests that we move in patterns between faith, hope and love. This is a pattern that also appears in Scripture as the movement between Priest, King and Prophet. While I will touch of some of his ideas in the posts about this theme, I will not attempt to develop his idea completely, but will explore some aspects. If you want to see his full thoughts, read From Bread to Wine (see the catalog on Biblical Horizons).

Now to consider patterns think of childhood. There are phases of dependence and trust, growth and exploration, and times of expressing self and defining relation. These phases may not be as clear cut as I lay out here but they do happen and there is a bit of repitition at different ages.

The newborn is totally dependent for clothing, food, care and so on. This is a phase of absolute dependence; an initial phase of trust or faith. While a child is dependent through adulthood, there are some points of particular dependence such as when their first born. Another time of intense dependence is when they first do away to school.

They leave home and now must trust a figure outside the home to function as a surrogate parent. Just of their dependence on the parent helped shaped their identity, this dependence on the surrogate (such as Kindergarten teacher) will also impact their identity. Rules of the classroom and rules in grammar, math and so on become foundational for them to make sense of this new world.

Newborns grow into a toddler phase characterized by growth and exploration. They discover their fingers and toes. They move from sitting/rocking to crawling to walking. They grow from making noises to forming initial words. Some early development is taking place in their body and mind. They are learning and a very early form of reasoning is displayed.

This season of growth and exploration will happen again around 9-14. This is when they shift from being a boy to being a young man and from a girl to a young lady. They become aware of differences and constrasts between family, the sexes, the neighbors and us, the kids at school and our family. Using their developing reasoning skills, they are more willing to argue with other kids (and with parents).

Another phase can be seen in the 3-4 year old as they tell mommy again and again how much they love her. They may become clingy to one or both parents. They start asking “why” hundreds of times a day (which prepares them for the rules phase).

When a child moves into teenage years, the “why” question becomes more pronounced. Their asking harder questions and getting ready to do more reasoning, but their also extremely emotional. They may begin flirt with the opposite sex. They move between highs and lows with sudden emotional outburts. They’ve experienced similar passions at a younger age but these were directed to parents. Now their emotions are directed outwards to friends and potential loves (as well as enemies).

While the phases may not be so clear cut, there repeated seasons where children are totally dependent, form identities in relation to authority figures (and eventually in relation to peers), experience dramatic growth and development, ask questions, shift from thinking to feeling, learn new rules, apply old rules in new ways, break rules. And so on.

The child is growing and repeating patterns again and again–developing their lifetime (memory and vision) which will shape their ongoing formation in adult years. At the same time, there are always possiblities along the way for dramatic invasions from outside their memory and vision that will shape their lifetime for both good and bad.

These pattern of rules, relationships, reason, emotions, growth and so on occur over and over throughout our lives. So in one sense, our lifetime is similar to the circular motion on a clock. Repeating hour after hour. At the same time, unexpected events can alter the cycle or challenge us to step outside one cycle and enter a new rhthym. An retired widower may suddenly decide to learn the the blues and travel around the world.

We are free to change within our lifetime. This freedom to step out of one cycle and into another is part of what makes us human. And yet, even as we step between cycles, we will still face internal and external periods focused on identity, relationships, rules, growth, questioning, stories, and so on.

Stories upon Stories upon Stories

June 15, 2008 Leave a comment

The Bible is not simply one story but many stories. And these stories form patterns that are repeated again and again. For example, the creation story appears in Gen 1 and Gen, but then variations of the creation story reapper throughout the scripture in places like Job, Proverbs 8, John 1 and Romans 1. Each story reflects a different aspect of the pattern.

Some of the many stories appearing in the Scriptures include:

The story of the Law

The story of Sojourn

The story of Slavery and Exodus

The love story between a Groom and Bride

The story of Father’s and Sons

The story of rebellion and redemption.

These are just some of the many stories that appear, reappear and reappear again. All these stories might and probably would have seem disconnected. But Jesus comes and fulfills/embodies every story. All the stories are flowing in and out from Him.

These stories might also be thought of as bardic songs. The ancient Celtic bards would sing songs of adventure and love and nature and war to the people. Their songs not only entertained but also helped forge a common memory of the tribe.

As we read the story (and sometimes realize we are acting in some of the story patterns), we also discover that we are being forged into a common memory of a family that spans time from beginning to end.

Hans Urs Von Balthasar speaks of the complexity of interwoven stories. He calls this a “symphony,” ” a dance fo sound.” Here are few of his thoughts on symphony from the classic treasure, Truth is Symphonic – Aspects of Christian Pluralism.

In his revelation, God performs a symphony, and it is impossible to say which is richer: the seamless genius of his compositions or the polyphonous orchestra of Creation that he has prepared to play it. Before teh Word of God became man, the world orchestra was “fiddling” about without any plan: world views, religions, different concepts of the state, each one playin gto itself. Somehow there is the feeling that this cacophonous jumble is only a “tuning up”: the A can be heard through everything, like a kind of promise. “In and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets…” (Heb 1:1). Then came the Son, the “heir of all things,” for whose sake the whole orchestra had been put together. As it performs God’s symphony under the Son’s direction, the meaning of its variety becomes clear….Initially, (the musicians) stand or sit next to one another as strangers, in mutual contradiction, as it were. Suddenyl the music begins, they realize how there are integrated. Not in unison, but what is far more beautiful–in sym-phony.

Thank You Dumitru Staniloae

May 29, 2008 3 comments

There is a sweetness in the writings of Dumitru Staniloae that draws me into the love of God. This precious Orthodox theologian opened the gift of relationships within time and space for me. I was struggling to understand the problems of the West and the modern world in the way we articulate and understand time and space when I first discovered Staniloae.

Instead giving me the answers, he caused me to raise more questions. And I am grateful for that holy stirring in my soul. Like Heschel, Staniloae suggests that the modern world tended to spacialize time and invert the proper order of time over space. When writing about time, Staniloae says that time is the interval between the offer of love and the reciprocation to that offer.

But maybe I better back up a moment. Staniloae introduced me to another aspect of Maximas the Confessor beyond the four hundreds texts on love. He develops the creational vision of Maximas in his writings. Staniloae suggests that when God chose to create humans (in his image), God created time and space as to planes where humans could move (in differing ways) towards love. Thus time and space provide a plane of motion for movement toward love in relationship with God and with other humans.

At first this may be a little difficult to wrap around, but I encourage to let it simmer in your thoughts and heart. It will unfold riches of the beauty of this creation. As a way of offering some glimpses into Staniloae’s writings, I am posting a segement from his little pamphlet “The Victory of the Cross.” This 20 page treasure opens in the riches of the cross in ways that most of us completely miss.

Here is the opening paragraph from this meditation on the cross of suffering in our lives:

The world is a gift of God, but the destiny of this gift is to unite man God who has given it. The intention of the gift is that it should be continually transcended. When we receive a gift from somebody we should look primarily towards the person who has given it and not keep our eyes fixed on the gift. But often the person who receives the gift becomes so attached to the gift that he forgets who has given it to him. But God demands an unconditional love from us for he is infinitely greater than any of the gifts which he gives us; just as at the human levels the person who gives us a gift is incomparably more important than the gift which he has given and should be loved for himself and ot only on account of his gift. In this way every gift requires a certain cross, and this cross is meant to show us that all these gifts are not the last and final reality. The cross consists in an alteration in thie gift, and sometimes even in its entire loss.

I am planning to put some notes on his themes on the cross soon, and I’ll post them. But I’ll pause now simply to say thank you for the gift of writing you gave. May I move beyond the gift to love God and others more fully.

Thank You Notes

I like reading lists such as top movies, top books, and top songs. Chris Tilling recently linked to Nijay Gupta’s list of Top Scholars that have influenced him. After reading his list, I thought about replicating the list with scholar who’ve influenced and shaped the way I ask questions of the Scripture and the world around me.

But I have such a hard time limiting lists. I started thinking about musicians, writers, and teachers who shaped my life. The quick list that flashed through my head included people who lived presently and who had lived in the past, but it also included people I know personally and people I don’t know. personally. Then an idea occurred to me. Instead of posting a list, I am going to start posting short “thank you notes” to people who have enriched my life in one way or another.

As such, this will be a never-ending list and there is no ranking. I will simply post “thanks yous” to people who have blessed me as a way of recording the rich circle of people who’ve graced me with their words, their talents and their presence.

Read all Thank You Notes.

Relationships, Houses and the Tabernacle

April 29, 2008 Leave a comment

doug and kelly house

We can begin to think more about how space and time intersect by considering the Tabernacle.

There are three areas related to the tabernacle: outer court, Holy Place, and Holy of Holies. The Israelites can come to the outer court, but only priests can enter the Holy Place. And only the High Priest can enter the Holy of Holies at specific times and according to specific rules. The Holy Place is veiled from the eyes of those who are not priests, and the Holy of Holies is veiled from everyone except the High Priest.

Now consider a house. We build walls around a set a relationships we call family. Family members can freely come and go from the house, but the house may be locked to those outside the family. We put a solid veil or a door between the outside world and the inhabitants of the home.

The door represents more than a physical barrier. The relationships within the home are veiled to the outside world. Within the sacredness of family, there are guarded memories, conversations, and stories. The space of the house represents a sacred placed for shared relationships or shared time. Inviting someone to pass through the outer veil is an honor. By inviting them into our space, we are inviting them at one level into our shared time.

The dinner table might be likened to the Holy Place. At the dinner table, we eat (break bread) and drink (pour wine). The bread and the wine (or whatever the meal) becomes a point of contact for sharing space and time together.

As we eat and drink in the presence of one another, we begin to discard veils. If wine is present, it can help accentuate the removing of veils/inhibitions. As we let down our guard (our veils), we begin to speak.

Around the meal, we tell stories. We share the highlights of our day. We recall memories. We dream together. We think out loud. The dinner table is place of the gathered tribe where people (both in the ancient past and in our current world), learn identity, connect to a family, learn proper social behavior, learn patterns and rituals that will shape their memories and dreams for the rest of their lives.

The dinner table extends beyond the family (tribe) and is a place of forming treaties between tribes. Thus the dinner table has been a place for negotiating great decisions like marriage, peace, business and friendship.

Beyond the dinner table, there is one other room that bears an even weightier sense of the sacred: the bedroom. The bedroom is an exclusive place of protection for only the husband and the wife. Behind the veil of the bedroom door, the couple removes all veils (both physical and emotional).

The physical veil is easy to remove and comes off on the wedding night. But the emotional veils guard such precious secrets that they take years to removed. And unfortunately, some couples never develop the trust of vulnerability required to begin remove these inner emotional veils.

Removing a veil leaves a person naked and completely vulnerable. Isaiah experiences the intensity of such exposure in his vision of the Holy God. A similar (though much less invasive) exposure happens between a husband and a wife.

This removing of veils binds memories and dreams together in a way that makes the couple both physically and emotionally one. The bedroom can be a great gift of healing and transformation when properly guarded, allowing for deep vulnerability, deep trust and deep shared time.

The husband and wife relationship gives a glimpse of the relation between the person and God. By the Spirit (through Jesus), the veils are removed one-by-one as we grow from glory-to-glory. Eventually we will truly behold Him with unveiled face—and we will be changed, glorified in the light of His love.

Without the Spirit’s grace of gently unveiling, exposing and transforming, the glory of the unveiled soul would be painful and terrifying much like Isaiah’s encounter and the encounter of the Israelites on the side of Mt. Sinai. This unveiling exposes our weaknesses, our sins, our absolute need for mercy and grace. Without mercy and grace, it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of a living God.

Thus the gift of a home begins to help us understand how space becomes a place which serves time: the sharing of memories and dreams and the essential mystery that forms us as unique persons.

Relationship Requires Space and Time

April 27, 2008 Leave a comment

Relationship with another human being does not exist in abstraction. It requires space and time. By reflecting on relationship, we may begin to better understand our relation to space and time.

Think of a marriage. The relationship begins and is cultivated in specific places and specific times. There are times and places where an intimate relationship bonds, and these might be thought of as sacred space and sacred time.

Sacred time might include a family meal, soft conversations in the bedroom, and even sleeping together (resting unguarded in one another’s presence). These sacred times occur in specific places like the dinner table and the bedroom. In a house, some rooms carry more weightiness due to history of cultivating relationships in these rooms.

The same activity may or may not enhance intimacy, depending on the participation of the people. Sometimes when my wife and I watch a movie, I sit on my recliner and she lays on the couch. During the film, I may also divert attention to my laptop to check my email. Or we might watch the film sitting together on the couch, sharing the experience in a more intentional way. The dynamic of shared time and space changes based on how we participate.

I would suggest that the element of intentional intimacy is located within time. Dumitru Stăniloa suggested that time is the interval between the offer of love and the reciprocation of that offer. Intimacy is not something that exists within a space but rather it is something that the people choose to do within that space. They choose to spend time together. We don’t speak of “spending space together” but “spending time together.” (I’ll share more on time and intimacy later.)

By choosing to use a space in a way that enhances our time together, we invest that space with greater significance. A house should be built in a way that accentuates the time we spend together. If we choose to use large spaces within our houses for private experiences such as bathrooms and walk-in closets, we may be suggesting by our use of space that our personal space is more valuable than our relational space. The shape and size of the spaces/rooms within a home and the objects within those rooms (furniture and decor) can all communicate stories or ideas that reflect the values of those who occupy those rooms.

So the content of our spaces and the uses of our spaces reflect the value we place on the times or shared relationships within those spaces. We’ve heard the saying, “A house does not make a home.” This statement reinforces that idea that a place to live, eat, and sleep may not always be a place where people forge intimate relationships.

On my next post, I’ll try to consider “How is a home like a tabernacle?”

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