by Shelby Dee
I used to attend Theology on Tap in a big city with a friend of mine. She was Catholic; I was not. On Thursday evenings a bunch of young adults would meet in a pub, usually listen to a religious leader speak on a topic, enjoy a brew, meet a few folks and engage in conversation. I understand these events take place all over the country. But as far as I know, this mountain town I now call home has nothing similar. But the other night, I found myself discussing theology over microbrews until the first hours of the new day.
I’ve had a couple of similar conversations lately. What does it mean to live in community? How do you do relationships?
I chuckle anytime someone brings up the word relationship. A college professor of mine once pointed out that it’s not even a word, but a string of prefixes and suffixes jammed together. We need to first define the word before we can live it.
But I don’t know that I can define relationship any better than my professor could. I was reading Jack Gilbert the other day and his poem “Music is in the Piano only when it is Played” seemed a far better definition of the word than anything I could say or write.
“We are not one with this world. We are not
the complexity our body is, nor the summer air
idling in the big maple without purpose.
We are a shape the wind makes in these leaves
as it passes through. We are not the wood
any more than the fire, but the heat which is a marriage
between the two…”
Relationship is the coexistence, the collaboration of two entities. When it’s good, it’s a mutually beneficial interaction.
“We are certainly not the lake
nor the fish in it, but the something that is
pleased by them. We are the stillness when
a mighty Mediterranean noon subtracts even the voices of
insects by the broken farmhouse. We are evident
when the orchestra plays, and yet are not part
of the strings or brass. Like the song that exists
only in the singing, and is not the singer.
God does not live among the church bells
but is briefly resident there. We are occasional
Relationships as we know them are messy. Not a single one of us is perfect. We say hurtful things. We hold onto grudges. We are dishonest with ourselves, as well as with others. We fail relationship every single time. The question is, do we still take that risk? Do we still seek relationship with others knowing that eventually it’s going to hurt? Knowing that we will fail?