This passage from a work by Caryll Houselander is perhaps one of the most profound and straightforward meditations I have read in regards to a Christian approach to human relationships. Houselander was a lay Catholic writer and artist who was born in 1901 and died of breast cancer in 1954 at the age of 53. She has often been referred to as a “divine eccentric.” This reading comes from today’s prayer service in the Magnificat, a monthly Catholic publication that is (in my opinion) one of the best layed out out daily prayer guides currently available. This reading is paired with today’s Gospel reading from the New Jerusalem lectionary. Those who possess an e-reader and would like to further explore the writings of Caryll Houselander can download her biography “A Rocking Horse Catholic” for free here.
But the warning is this: do not ask from any human being that which God only can give. I grant you that God gives himself through human beings and unites himself through human relationships, provided the people involved realize their human relationships as a mutual giving and receiving of Christ-life and the Holy Spirit, and do nothing to frustrate this. But God does not give himself wholly through any one friend, lover, husband, or what not. I mean rather that although every real friendship is a mutual Christ-giving, no one friend can give God to you so perfectly as completely to to satisfy and fill your need for his love.
Human elements enter into every human relationship, and disturb the serenity of them all sometimes. You see, we all tend to ask from the other human being things that God alone can give and we can only attain by a mutual and conscious turning to God together, and accepting from God together whatever suffering is the condition of love – and of course suffering in some measure is the condition of all love and every love …
God’s love for those we love is infinitely greater than our own, and it is as well to remember it, and to remember it especially when he allows things to happen which threaten both their happiness or safety, and ours.
And it is also the ultimate reason why, despite the Christ-giving element in our relationships, they can never be perfect here. There must be empty places left in our hearts, because the final happiness of both depends upon God himself possessing us completely; once that is achieved, heaven can begin for both, and in heaven of course, unlike here, our friendships will take part, not only imperfectly, in God, but perfectly.
That, however, won’t happen here; so, while thanking God for the joy and miracle of your new friendships, do not demand perfection of them, and do not be disappointed when trails arise, Actually, but for the failure of other relationships in your life, and for the suffering you have had through them, which, by the by, you have borne with magnificent fortitude and sweetness, but for those things you would not now be ready, fashioned as it were by the hammer of God.