What Are Your Relationship Altars?

What Are Your Relationship Altars? April 7, 2020

Holy Week begins with the celebration of Palm Sunday, representative of Jesus’ “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem leading up to his crucifixion.

The Christian story is full of moments like these. Staple events that mark an important time, make a distinction, or change the course of perspective. In the Old Testament, people would often set up altars to commemorate and remember these kinds of instances.

Culturally, we do this in all sorts of ways. Easter itself is a kind of altar – marking and celebrating the death/resurrection of Jesus. We set up cultural altars like MLK Jr. Day and our own wedding anniversaries.

The idea is these events are so transcendently important, they need to be intentionally recalled and celebrated.



We are participants in all kinds of human relationships. We celebrate marriage as a kind of pinnacle of human intimacy, but there are a lot of different kinds of relationships between human beings.

As Holy Week and the Easter season get under way, I find myself thinking about the altars of my own relationships. What are the moments we celebrate? What are the stories we come back to over and over again? When I consider the timeline of my relationships, what are the markers I remember most, the places where perception changed?


Identifying Altars

Sometimes I feel like we just sort of celebrate things and don’t know why. We seldom throw a second thought toward why we do a lot of the things we do.

Kylie and I have stories we tell over and over again. Isn’t that an indication that we find those stories particularly important? Why is that? What is it about the stories we continue to tell that make them compelling? Is it just that they are funny?

We often say that culture is the values communicated in an organization (i.e. a relationship). What we say, the stories we tell, communicate what matters to us. Most of our stories, for example, are about how different we are and how we’ve learned to value those differences and see them as complimentary rather than obtrusive.

What are the stories you are telling in your relationship? Are they stories of divisiveness, ones where you are the hero and the one you are in relationship with is the buffoon, the lost soul, or the evil doer that needs your help?

The stories we tell are like the altars set up in the Old Testament. They are markers of the journey we are on, indicative of the kind of things we value in a relationship. The Old Testament altar-makers almost always are noted as “worshipping” at the altar and we eventually took that colloquialism into our modern religious practice. It is apt.

The things we mark and celebrate and come back to within our relationships are the things we “worship” – or, less dramatically, the things we truly value. Perhaps it is time to be a little more intentional about the altars we set in place and a little more mindful about what our altars are saying about the kinds of relationships we are in.

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