I have been wondering, and I come back to this wondering every now and then, about the people who live the roles of caring for others, being present physically and emotionally with and for individuals and communities. These people give of themselves, make themselves vulnerable, available, to and for others, in order to nurture, guide, listen - to facilitate another's healing and progress towards wholeness. These people hold other people, individuals or communities, hold their stories, their joys and their sorrows, in confidence, in trust.
And I wonder: who holds them?
How does such a one approach relationships with family and friends? If it is our closer relationships that do hold us, is there a risk that our participation in those could become more take and less give, because we simply do not have enough left to give? Because we need to be held for a while?
Or is the mutuality of the more intimate relationships in our lives deeper and more involved, more involving of each person; the mutuality of relationships with those for whom we have this caring role more one sided?
For just how 'mutual' can a relationship be of doctor and patient, teacher and student, minister and congregation? Yes, we do learn from our patients and students and congregation members, a lot. But a patient or a student or a member of a congregation / the congregation does not hold the story of the doctor or teacher or minister in quite the same way, with quite the same level of vulnerability or trust asked or offered.
The vulnerability of the minister (I'll go with what I know) is offered not in the telling of her story, but in the opening herself up to the story of anther and allowing it to connect with her story. The minister tells more of his story than a doctor will to a patient, or a teacher to a student. But there's still a less than entirely mutual nature to the relationship; the minister will ask less of the people than they will of the minister - because that is the nature of the relationship. There is an intricate dance that a minister does, in order to offer enough of herself to be in authentic relationship with the people she serves, while being ready at any moment to step aside and open up the space for the people she serves to tell their story, to need comfort, conversation, care.
So where do we find the spaces that are opened for our needed comfort, conversation and care?
How are we held?
And for the single ones in these roles, there is an extra effort required, and energy we don't always have, to seek out the space in which we will be held. For there is no partner with whom that space naturally exists. Parents have other children, and their own lives; siblings have their own roles and relationships; friends, too. Those relationships are not as involved or involving of each other in the daily rhythm of living.
And perhaps it seems as though I am forgetting that God holds us - not so. This is simply wondering about the gift and nature of human relationships, without which none is truly whole.
So sometimes it is a lonely place, this being present for and with others. A rewarding, privileged, wonderful place. But a lonely one too.