Those precious, lovely people who have so much greatness going on in their lives, yet there is an unspoken quality about them which draws from your strength. It is not a matter to complain about or confront a person about, trust me. It is however, a major area to pray for in a person’s heart, even in one’s own.
I have observed that there are three types of relationships between myself and others. There are the relationships filled with energy, vibrancy, and startling possibilities. These are the relationships which I generally struggle to appreciate fully because I can’t get past the awe of, ‘where do they get their liveliness and how can I tap in to it?!’
The second type is that of equal energy. These are the people in whose company I find much rest and refreshment. They are the ones who listen with their spirits, not just their ears. They are symbiotic relationships, organically healthy and strong. The third is the type which has the capacity to cause great distress in my everyday living. They are the relationships which sap my strength and energy, the ones who are takers. The thing is, they might even be the most generous people on earth, yet there is something there, in the room, and it easily destroys my gentleness. These people are sometimes my patients. I know it within the first 20 minutes of entering their home, that my vulnerability will arrive at the end of my shift, in shreds.
But sometimes, my very own friendships are found to be in this state. This is not the occasional cry for help between friends or the regular ebb and flow of a relationship. It is something else. If you do not know of what I speak, perhaps you need not read any further.
Until recently, I had not had too much of a problem in these types of relationships. I had learned early on, that boundaries are a necessary element of healthy relationships. I had learned that it is okay to walk away from a situation which is unhealthy and to trust that Jesus has the capacity to restore. I had learned that there are just some people who suck the life out of the room…and that it is okay to love them anyway.
Which one of us can say that we are not found at each end of these three relationship types? We all have those people and we all are those people, if not consistently, then at varying points in our lives. Perhaps this is why graciousness is such an invaluable virtue.
Yes, I did say, ‘shoulders.’ Shoulders are, I think, the most important portion of the body when it comes to relationships. There is really no other hinge in the body which has the ability to evoke such strong emotional responses from others or to show one’s own inward self. As a dancer, I have learned that our bodies are always, in some way or other, portraying a language. Speaking of what is in our hearts. I have heard it said that a person who is selfless looks up. Oddly enough, in order to look up, you and I….well, we need our shoulders.
During my yoga practices, I find that where I share my shoulders, I share my heart. Should I care to tip my heart toward the earth, my shoulders must direct it there. Should I care to stretch my heart toward Jesus during worship, it is my shoulders which create the space for my heart to expand toward heaven. When I reach forward, helping another, my shoulders open wide so my heart is available and willing. When I am afraid, I draw my shoulders down and in. A fetus curls its entire body around its heart. When I embrace, I furl my shoulders around the other person’s heart creating a hollow, a cave, where our hearts can share their strength, their joy, their pain. Shoulders are everything when it comes to the heart. When it comes to love. When it comes to communication.
Last summer, I found myself standing in the church courtyard. Surrounded by people. But their shoulders curled in, toward themselves, toward their children, toward their comfortable relationships. I felt rather alone and heart sick at the sight of those shoulders. So cold and unwelcoming. At the supermarket later that afternoon, I analyzed the tofu. A man and his partner came to my rescue. The first thing they did was to open their shoulders toward me. They did not close in to each other. They chose to open. They chose to extend their shoulders, their hearts toward a stranger. I was more than blessed….and surprised.
In my kitchen, there are oftentimes two, who knit their shoulders with one another and no one else. They are close. Too close. And it hurts. It draws the strength out of the room and causes outside relationships to wilt. Other times in my kitchen, there is much life. Conversation and giggles. These are the shoulders which are open. These are the shoulders which are welcoming and ready for others.
Surely, where our shoulders go, there our hearts will follow.