What if a holy relationship runs aground? (December 1, 2010)

It is popular Course wisdom that a holy relationship takes only one, that a relationship is holy for us when we are in a state of forgiveness about it. Unfortunately, the Course never talks like this. It always speaks of a holy relationship as mutual, as a joining of two people in a common goal. This joining invites holiness to enter the relationship as a real presence and then begin to guide the two people toward the goal of jointly realizing holiness on the conscious level.

This sounds wonderful in theory, of course, but it also tends to bring up an immediate question: If a holy relationship takes two, what do I do if the other person won’t play his or her part?

Actually, a Course teacher just wrote me today and asked a version of that question. His question was about Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford. He pointed out that Helen remained resentful that Bill moved to California. He then asked if the relationship is still holy even if one person stops going along with the program.

This is a reasonable question, for the simple fact that it happens. One person often does stop going along with the program. Another possibility is that both people simply get stuck—too deadened by resentment to make progress or too mired in conflict to really carry on. The Course acknowledges the less-than-inspiring fate of many holy relationships: “Many relationships have been broken off at this point”—“this point” being when the new goal runs headlong into the relationship’s established ways (T-17.V.3:8).

Actually, my own experience is that such unfortunate outcomes are more the norm than the exception. And this is also the impression given by Section 3 in the Manual, which talks as if the holy relationships in which the two partners decide to learn “the perfect lesson [that] is before them” (M-3.5:6) are really quite rare.

I guess this is to be expected. The separateness in us runs so deep that real joining is a rare jewel in this world. When we are faced with the choice between serving the god of our separate self or leaving it behind to join hands with another human being, most of us choose the former in the same way that someone lost in the desert chooses water.

God knows all this, but the fact remains that joining with another is still His plan for how we get home: “A one-to-one relationship is not one Relationship [the one Relationship with God]. Yet it is the means of return; the way God chose for the return of His Son” (P-3.II.4:6-7). Is God just naive? Doesn’t He realize we are probably going to seriously screw up this blessed “one-to-one relationship? What does He know that we don’t?

What He knows, what He is counting on, is the power of what those two people invited into their relationship. The presence they invited in seems small and insignificant, but it is actually small and “insignificant” like a seed fallen into a crack in the sidewalk. Surely, we think, the solid concrete of our relationship will win out against this seed. And for a long time, it seems to.

But we shouldn’t underestimate the seed. It is far more real and more lasting than the concrete. So if you feel that you had a joining with another person that was real enough to invite into the relationship a force that transcends your separate egos, and yet you feel this  joining has run aground, my advice would be: Don’t underestimate the power of that seed you invited in. It may be nearly forgotten. It may seem completely dormant. The crack it fell into may have closed back up or been plastered over. It may seem like it is no longer a factor.

But the fact is that it has a life of its own, one that is independent of any of these conditions. It will never leave the relationship. And one day it will rise up and have its way. That day may be far in the future, beyond this lifetime. Or it may be next year. It might be tomorrow. You just don’t know. But don’t underestimate that seed. In the end, it will be what writes the story of your relationship.

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