A Sacred Way of Acknowledging Each Other

‘The way you bowed to each other. Every time he handed you something, or you handed something back to him. I know that was part of the Church ritual, too, but I was lying awake last night think about it in a different way. I was thinking, maybe couples ought to have little rituals like that, where they bow to each other. Maybe once at the beginning of the day and once at the end. Maybe at other times, too. As a way of acknowledging each other – oh, I don’t know, that there really is a sacred aspect of what they’re trying to do with each other.’

Gail Godwin, Evensong

dsc00116This novel, the continuing story of a preacher’s daughter who becomes an Anglican priest herself and marries another man of the cloth, offers this comment by a character who watches the couple offering a mass together.

What should be more sacred than the bond one has the partner she has chosen for life? What other relationship or situation should lend itself to the creation of ritual in such a way?

Except most of us are not married or devoted to a fellow member of the clergy. For most of us, faith is not both vocation and avocation. I have always found that balance in which both partners share the same sort of passion for the Divine to be more than elusive.

big_loveRight now, my husband I am more than a little obsessed with Big Love, the incredibly well done HBO show about a “mainstream” polygamous family. Theoretically, their shared faith is so fervent and irresistible that it inspires them to walk against the tides of law and society. (Of course, if it were that simple the show wouldn’t be so addictive and compelling…)

I operate outside of the bounds of a specific religion, as does my husband. He knew that “spirituality” was important to me when we first met, and I knew that he was cool with that. Over the years my sort of amorphous pining for the Goddess has taken more deliberate shape and we have had more conversations about the role of a Higher Power, but in certain ways, the arrangement is still the same. My own journey has progressed and my Love is always there by the side of any road I choose to travel.

Because I have never committed my adult life to a specific religious, where I assumed it is much easier to find a like minded soul who is interested in approaching God in a similar way, I have sort of resigned myself to a rather solitary path marked by my partner’s interest, but not necessarily his participation. There are so many other things that I get from our marriage. Plus, it makes sense to me that I am engaged in an individual relationship with Spirit.

But this section from Godwin’s novel offers a couple an alternative to some formal, or even informal, worship of God.

Modern books on the Goddess and feminine spirituality so often seem to offer a chapter or two on sacred love making and blessing one’s union. They always seemed like the dreams of women whose lovers would always hold their witchy dabbling at arms length. In the same way, books on Eastern paths that talk about Tantra as the ultimate union between male and female (with little answer for same sex couples) as some distant ideal crafted by the sorts of people I could never imagine my husband and I to be.

But it could be made more simple, to keep it within a place of safety and comfort for all involved. What would it be to simply acknowledge the other, to take it above the sweet, but perhaps mundane level of making dinner breakfast together and cuddling on the couch for another few episodes of a mutually enjoyed tv show?

There is something delicious and necessary about finding the sacred in the every day. But isn’t there a way to plant the sacred in that every day experience so we do not have to overturn so many humdrum stones to find it?

But it can be a great bridge to cross – allowing one’s private passion for God to permeate a relationship in more overt ways (a true spirituality will always be inflecting a relationship in beautifully subtle ways). Perhaps on this day that has been forced to represent love by countless flower shops and candy companies there is room to introduce the equivalent of a sacred bow to recognize the wonder of love’s power.

How will you do it?

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3 thoughts on “A Sacred Way of Acknowledging Each Other

  1. Barbara February 14, 2009 / 6:03 pm

    How lovely to have such a ritual! When I lived in Japan, I noticed how ingrained the bowing was with the language. It took a year to get the bow out of my body when I returned to Canada, a less expressive country. In Japan, one even bows when talking on the phone! The students at my college would bow to greet me on the run (or the shuffle because they were wearing houseslippers) and I bowed in return.
    My ex and I came from different Christian traditions and he considered himself a kind of agnostic, a very benevolent one because he sometimes accompanied me to church and asked if I wanted some alone prayer time when we visited big Gothic churches. I had my “Jesus dress” which I wore at church only because he disliked it. We worked it out somehow. After our break up, he eventually joined a church and made a point of letting me know.

  2. Doxy February 16, 2009 / 1:28 pm

    My beloved is an Episcopal priest, and I seem to be called to ministry (though not to ordination). Our connection–physical, emotional, spiritual–transcends anything I have ever experienced with another human being, and I believe that connection is grounded in our mutual love for, and longing for, God.

    We have found that praying together each morning is a way that we bow to the sacred in each other and in our relationship. He always begins his prayers of thanksgiving by thanking God for me and for our relationship. That is heady stuff…

    But you are certainly right that we need to acknowledge the sacred in one another in more mundane ways, as well. It can be so hard to do in the midst of day-to-day living, though! My beloved and I both came through the fires of other relationships–I sometimes wonder if it takes having been through the crucible to be able to see how precious love really is…

    Pax,
    Doxy

  3. painterofblue February 21, 2009 / 12:31 pm

    My husband has a religion but he doubts God. I am passionate about God but have doubts about religion. We butt heads sometimes, but we are teaching each other. I think our spiritual connection is found in our commitment to our relationship. It is the work we put into working things out that allows us to bring more love and kindness for each other into the world. That is the presence of God however you wish to label it.

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