It’s fascinating to me that my post right after my review of The Divine Dance will be on celebrating thirty-five years of marriage. October 17 1981 is the day when Sheila and I said our wedding vows and thirty-five years later, I feel I marriage is in the center of that divine dance!
To “know” unguarded friendship with Sheila this long, wild, beautiful, hard 12,775 days after we said “I do” is to know something of the fiery dance of eternal friendship depicted in the book, The Divine Dance.
The phrase “unguarded friendship” came to mind when I was about two thirds of the way through the book. For me the beauty to know unguarded friendship 12,775 days into marriage is to know something of the unending Trinitarian “flow”—within the divine dance.
What are the best metaphors for a marital friendship one truly cherishes after thirty-five years? Yes, no doubt, there are many metaphors that would be appropriate. But in light of my recent reading of The Divine Dance I want to highlight the wild and extravagant blessing of knowing unguarded friendship thirty-five years into marriage.
I suppose unguarded friendship could mean many things to many people but for me the sense of unguarded friendship is full of glorious and redemptive meaning when we participate in this never-ending dance of uninhibited flow of divine movement, divine pleasure, divine goodness, divine beauty. It is to know something of perichoresis thirty-five years into marital friendship.
To know this—unguarded divine friendship—thirty-five years into marital friendship is to mirror that divine friendship in all of its fullness. To embrace this sense of “unguarded” is to embrace this mutual intimate mirroring of the endless dance.
To see, to savor, to cherish, to know Sheila’s unique specialness as we grow old together is to behold divine abundance. I can witness to divine abundance on this day, our thirty-fifth anniversary. You know you feel that abundance in the early rush of romantic crush. You also can witness to that abundance five years into it. Ten years into the marriage, you know the abundance but it's much, much different, right? Memories start to take significance as part of the abundance. And then what about abundance after twenty-five years? For those of you blessed to know this after twenty-five years, you know the grace-filled abundant joy.
But I now can attest to thirty-five years of divine abundance. Even at this hour, words fail to describe what it means to know unguarded friendship on this special day. To know Sheila's beautiful unguarded friendship few months shy of her seventieth birthday is too good to be true!
Of course, this mirroring the divine dance as we face old age means that spiritual knowing takes on a maturing significance that mirrors the flow in the presence of chronic suffering. Physically, Sheila's been limited with her various challenges including her arthritic knees and hands, her ongoing issues with her sciatic nerve, and other ailments.
Although her body limits her from physical dance, her mind and spirit knows unbounded freedom to participate in the dance. To know Sheila as my best friend with thirty-five years of shared laughs, shared joys, shared memories, shared disappointments, shared pleasures, shared desires, is to know something of the shared depth of long-lasting love. In her suffering we still know the glorious beauty and strength of unguarded marital friendship.
For sure, one of the biggest surprises of long-lasting unguarded friendship for Sheila and I has been coming to know this unguarded, uninhibited divine flow in our friendships with our other-sex friends. I did not anticipate the deep pleasure I would have in reading The Divine Dance so close to our thirty-fifth anniversary.
Perhaps others will see it differently, but I so enjoyed language like “uninhibited,” “God flows freely,” “eternal flow,” “eternal and abundant energy between,” and so on, accompanied with language about dance and divine friendship! As they quote John O’Donohue, “In the embrace of this eternal friendship, we dare to be free.” You know, don't you, that it has been a patriarchal taboo to use "uninhibited" in the mutual dance of cross-gender friendship!
As I mentioned in my last post, I was thrilled that Rohr and Morrell did not sexualize Trinitarian spirituality! Sexuality is definitely included in the mystery of divine friendship but it is not the final word in the mystery nor is it ultimate nirvana in divine mystery. Desire for God must still be fundamentally more primal than desire for sex and so I greatly appreciated their approach.
For both Sheila and I, the paradoxical nature of marital friendship in this divine dance means that it is our unguarded friendship that gives us the freedom and the joy of knowing unguarded friendships with the other-sex.
Both Sheila and I believe that perichoresis takes on a Freudian projection when sex becomes the undercurrent for all unguarded friendships. Yes, all kinds of weird, strange, unhealthy, needy, codependent, and fusion-like things happen when we conflate the divine dance with sex. But more importantly, not all unguarded abundant relationality points to sex or has sex as an undercurrent. This is what I so enjoyed about The Divine Dance.
Whether you are a conservative Freudian or a progressive Freudian, sexual significance or sexual undercurrent becomes fused with this sense of unguardedness in relationships. So we have layers upon layers in which we resist the divine flow of unguarded friendships between the sexes. My good friend Kathy Escobar talks about a fused faith in her book, Faith Shift. Could it be that there is a Freudian fusion in our embrace of divine openness and sex?
When we don’t project a Freudian spin on the divine dance, sex is not the codependent or fusion-like undercurrent in the unguarded marital friendship nor is it the undercurrent in the unguarded other-sex friendship.
The wonderful divine dance that Sheila and I have been dancing to in last fourteen years is a beautiful but hard dance of vulnerability in marriage and unguarded vulnerability in other-sex friendships.
Rohr and Morrell observe:
In my experience, healthily vulnerable people use every occasion to expand, change, and grow. Yet it is a risky position to live undefended, in a kind of constant openness to the other— because it would mean others could sometimes actually wound you (from vulnus, “wound”). But only if we choose to take this risk do we also allow the exact opposite possibility: the other might also gift you, free you, and even love you.
Then they add poignantly:
“But it is a felt risk every time.
Others may see this differently, but to know this constant openness in marriage and in cross-gender friendship without Freud seeking to monopolize the unconscious is the glory of the peacemaking presence of Christ in marriages and community.
Sheila and I both know the beauty and the hard work of this constant openness to the other (i.e. unguarded friendship) with our opposite-sex friends. Of course, you have a wide range of where people are in their journeys out of Freudian fusion. Perichoresis is not Freudian (consciously or unconsciously) fusion.
Some of us (conservative or progressive), keep on equating openness with sex or sexual trajectory. Freudian conflation of sex and constant openness has deep roots emanating in our social psychology.
So as my wife and I celebrate thirty-five years of marriage, we can witness with a resounding and deep Yes! regarding the quote Rohr and Morrell cite at the end of their book, “The very nature of God, therefore, is to seek out the deepest possible communion and friendship with every last creature on this earth.” This is what it means to share the divine dance in cross-sex friendship!