For a few weeks this past month I felt like my husband and I just weren’t “in the flow”. Everything seemed difficult. We were snappy with each other. Little things which are usually easy, almost unconscious, seemed difficult. I didn’t think either one of us was particularly happy to see the other. Trying to discuss things over the phone, easy things, became difficult.
And then, all of a sudden, it seemed easier. I was wondering to myself, “What happened? What is different?” I was wondering this while driving home Monday evening after a ballroom dancing lesson. It hit me in the car that perhaps it was the dancing itself that helped. We usually dance once a week, sometimes twice, but for almost a month we had been absent. He had been traveling and I had an emergency come up at work one of those Mondays. So maybe, I thought, it was the dancing that we had missed, the dancing that brought us together.
But not exactly, because it had already been a bit easier the day before that. I had noticed Sunday evening that we were laughing again, and flowing like we usually do. We were touching more easily and being generous with each other, generous in spirit and in action. What happened Sunday, I thought to myself? Well, Sunday morning we went to church. For the first time in almost six weeks. We had been out of town, or I had been teaching at another church, or he had been on a golf outing. Was it something about being back in church that began to make things ease up a bit?
As I thought through this, I realized that those two things, church and ballroom dancing, are rituals that are important to our marriage. Being in church together, sitting side by side, praying, receiving communion, remembering who we are and what our priorities are, passing the peace, talking about a sermon, this ritual matters to us. Turning to my husband and saying to him, “God’s peace be with you,” somehow changes things. Hearing the words, “The body of Christ given for you,” said to him and to me, changes things. Singing and chanting and worshipping God changes us. We are, each of us, on an active individual spiritual journey. At church, though, we remember that we are in this together. And not just us, but the community we worship with. And not just that community, but all the communion of people worshipping. It should change our perspective, our sense of ourselves. It should send us out into the world (and in this case, our marriage) formed in a new way and ready to make a difference. I believe that is exactly what happened.
Ballroom dancing reminds us who we are in a completely different way. We both love to dance and have boogied down for years. But this kind of dancing forces us to work together as one, to want what is best for the other person and to be relatively free-flowing in that generosity. We are both challenged. We are both wrong a lot, and we are both right occasionally. It’s a team sport, so to speak. We only do well if we both do well. And the feeling of accomplishment, of producing a little work of art, so-to-speak, is a wonderful feeling. Holding each other doesn’t hurt either. And laughing, like last week when I tried to do some sexy move and fell down. And giggling when he tried to be all dramatic, acting like he was in hot pursuit of me. I just cracked up. Such fun and levity.
Being without both of these rituals made us cranky. Irritable. We forgot the bigger things. Which is why ritual is important. Good ritual reminds us of the bigger, more important things in life. Good ritual holds us so we can go deeper into the important things. Good ritual uses metaphor, images, and all our senses to heighten our experience of something bigger than us.
Six weeks was too long for us. What rituals are important to your relationships? How long is too long for you to be away from those rituals? How are you reminded that there is something bigger than you?