One morning while in Lake Powell, we began kayaking out of a particular canyon. Our launching point was in shin deep muck that reeked of bloody hell and was absolutely freezing as you stood in the water. Nevertheless, it was my turn to push people off that morning. By the time that I actually was in my kayak and on my way, the rest were far ahead of me, trying to escape the early morning chill by finding sun outside of the canyon. For a while, I tried playing catch-up. And then I stopped, captivated by where I was at and what I was experiencing. It was other-worldly. The beauty found in the canyons will truly take your breath away and leave you stunned. As I was floating/slowly paddling my way out of the canyon (unfazed by the cool air), I thought of things that I missed. People came to mind. Things came to mind. But mostly people. And it struck me. In relationships with others, we need a nearness with them. But we also need a distance between us. It’s good to try to get to know somebody as good as possible. But you are never able to truly appreciate those things unless there is some separation, unless there is some mystery left in the relationship. This is contrary to many of my beliefs at this point, in that in relationships, we should offer the other person everything that we have, sharing everything with them, leaving no stone unturned. This is not suggesting that we are to be dishonest or deceitful with another. But there needs to be a buffer space between the two involved within a relationship. Khalil Gibran gets at this idea in a poem of his that is often shared at wedding ceremonies:
Sing and dance together and be joyous/ but let each one of you be alone/Even as the strings of a lute are alone/ though they quiver with the same music.
Stand together yet not too near together/ For the pillars of the temple stand apart/ and the oak trees and the cypress/ grow not in each other’s shadow.
When we know somebody completely, we become content. We become comfortable. There’s no sense of putting anymore work into the relationship. Its work is complete. This temptation to believe that our relationship is fulfilled is something that needs to be resisted. We need both nearness and distance in relationships in order for them to exist in a healthy manner.
Maybe this is why God is both transcendent and immanent. Why God is both near and far. And maybe this is why God decides to remain a mystery. Because relationships can only occur when both transcendence and immanence are present.
Kahlil Gibran goes on to write, “When you part from your friend, you grieve not; For that which you love most in him may be dearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.”