A friend of mine lost his wife recently. He said one of the hardest things he has encountered is having to start thinking of ‘me’ rather than ‘we’ – and of having to get used to doing things alone, which he has not done for many years. He misses the conversation. It’s absence signifies his loss quite profoundly.
I looked around at Mass during the week and I noticed how many people – often, but not always, elderly – were there alone. I know several of them have lost spouses. I have no real idea of just how terrible that sense of crushing loss must be when lived out day after day. We form personal relationships in the clear knowledge that nothing, not even the strongest love, survives forever. The cost of truly loving is the pain of loss which will come one day.
St Terese of Avila reminded us astutely that “all things pass except God”. If she was right, then that is one relationship we really need to think about – and work hard not only to establish, but to maintain. My friend told me that his faith is the single thing which makes his intense loss bearable – “I don’t know how people without faith get through it. Faith makes it possible”.
People have, for a variety of reasons, differing ideas about what constitutes that particular and quite singular relationship with God. St Thérèse of Lisieux simplified it greatly when describing it as being a conversation between friends. She was speaking specifically about prayer – but every friendship requires the sustenance of conversation or it will wither and fade. I can think of friends I see too little of – because of which, I need to make the effort (as do they) to remain in touch through the conversation of a phone call here and there; this contact, brief though it is, keeps the friendship alive.
With God, an intermittent relationship is acceptable, if not ideal. Better, though, to have a warm and loving relationship, a constant relationship, something that is so familiar to us and with which we are sufficiently comfortable that we turn to it instinctively. That is the difference between acquaintance and true friendship.
Beginning such a relationship is easier than we might imagine. All that is necessary is to take that first step. We call that prayer. Prayer is the great bridge between God and man, the Creator and the creature, the Divine and the human. Even if it seems odd at first, sticking with it will bring it’s own rewards. God listens. He always listens.
And He is even more eager for that relationship with us, than we are to establish it with Him.