leaving and staying

Years ago I had a psychic reading that struck me with its veracity.

"I see you walking along the path of your life," the reader said, "and there are people who join you. They come and walk with you for a while then they leave."

A lifetime of loss, I thought. Grief after grief. I was not particularly happy about this story but my soul recognized it as true. 

I don't really believe we can make predictions about one another's lives.

I believe in an open and relational theology. Even God doesn't know our future, because we have free will and make choices.

What I do believe is that we (and some of us are more skilled at this than others) can perceive beyond (or in addition to) the physical. We have empathy and intuition. We can sense things about one another's energy and emotion and therefore can see patterns and probabilities and perhaps (this is a big perhaps) God's desires for us, or what God hopes we will choose.

At any rate, for whatever reason, in the years that have followed that reading I have noticed myself living it.

I've lost companions through physical death, mental illness, and changes in circumstances, and in most cases I felt the loss upon meeting the person. Throughout the relationship there was the understanding, on some level, that the union was temporary. 

We're going to walk along this path for a while, but it won't always be this way.

Which makes every moment bittersweet.

Georgina's, Oxford

Georgina's, Oxford

But there's also something beautiful about understanding that we humans come in and out of one another's lives and provide what is needed for one another - understanding, healing, wisdom, love.

Friendships awaken different parts of us. My energy meets with yours and we are a challenge or a balm for one another and what remains, even when the friendships change, what remains even after death is the love and understanding.

Reflecting on the people I have lost leads me to reflection on those who have stayed.

I'm not only walking on that path with people who come and go. I'm also walking with people who don't go.

In some ways, learning how not to clutch to the leavers teaches me how to better love the stayers.

I notice how, because this story of loss is imprinted in me, I can sometimes be withholding when it comes to the people I love the most. The fear of losing them creates a barrier between us.

I don't give as much as my heart wishes to give.

I hold on to my wounds and past pain a little too dearly.

But moving through loss teaches me, I don't need to be afraid of pain.

Magdalen College, Oxford

Magdalen College, Oxford

And all of my relationships remind me that, while there is no predetermination, there is divine order to this life we live. I hold gifts for the people in my life and they hold gifts for me because we all hold the gifts of the Divine.

In communion with one another that we truly find ourselves, the depth of our souls, the truth of our purpose, the face of God.

I am a real fan of forgiveness. I highly recommend it. In my life, I have been forgiven many times and I am grateful for each and every occasion. Forgiveness is the grace that gives us all a second chance. It is the way to reconciliation. But I am also thankful for other times when I have been able to offer forgiveness to someone else. That is an act of healing. It can make a relationship even stronger. I understand how complex and layered the issue of forgiveness can be, but I will always appreciate how forgiveness brings things back to life.
— Steven Charleston

There is a spiritual trope that says everything happens for a reason - this would include all encounters and relationships. 

I don't believe this to be true.

And yet I do believe there are fated relationships - people whose souls or minds or hearts need one another, people who hold something for another. Because we have free will, these encounters that are meant to be might not actually happen, but there are encounters, some brief and some extended, that change the shape of us - change our minds, change our hearts, heal us and rearrange us.

We are not here alone.

We matter to one another.

Just as we matter to God.

Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford

Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford