The quality of life is usually tied intimately to the quality of our relationships with those around us. I am talking about all kinds of relationships—those with parents, with friends, with coworkers, with boyfriends or girlfriends, with spouses, etc. I have experienced and witnessed beautiful, life-giving relationships and tense, fragile relationships. I have felt the pain that comes with a broken relationship. A culmination of my own experiences and the experiences of others has led me to believe that the health of any relationship can be measured by the frequency of the exchange of 8 simple, timeless words: Thank you. I love you. I’m sorry. Amen.
I realize the word “Amen” can be deterring for some who do not find themselves particularly religious. And although for me sharing the word “Amen” is symbolic for sharing faith, others might interpret what I share here in the context of sharing dreams, hopes, worldviews, or morals.
When I was a senior in high school, there was a period where I missed a month from school due to sickness. I was told it might be cancer. I had my blood drawn nearly every other day, and I had to undergo several tests. My body ended up taking care of itself after some time. But a few years later, when my lymph nodes were swollen to an abnormally large size again, I was extremely worried that whatever I had been facing in high school was returning. I tried to play it cool, but eventually I was so stressed, I couldn’t hold it in. I called John with tears in my eyes, expressing my worry to him. He listened and then said, “Why don’t I come pick you up and let’s go to the chapel together.”
In suggesting we go to the chapel in our time of need, John was admitting that this was out of our hands and we would simply need to trust. My Catholic faith is so important to me, and here John was encouraging, supporting, and pushing me in my faith.
When we got to the chapel, we kneeled down together before God and both offered our own prayers silently. Although we weren’t communicating verbally, it was a beautiful experience to know we were both there together, appealing to something much bigger and more important than ourselves individually or together. When I offered my Amen at the end of my prayer, I knew John was offering his to the same end. Surrendering together by way our individual and yet shared prayer was deeply intimate. I remember little of the outcome of the visits to the doctors, yet this moment burns vividly in my memory.
Since then, there have been numerous trips to the adoration chapel and church, discussions about our struggles and successes in our faith, shared prayers, prayers for one another, etc. Like that experience together so long ago, moments of sharing our beliefs about the world and God’s action within it—about sharing “Amen” moments—have been deeply personal, vulnerable, and intimate, and thus, continue to strengthen our relationship. These, for me, are the most meaningful moments within our relationship.
I’ve had similar experiences with friends who don’t share my own faith and even a friend who is atheist, proving that the intimacy is less about sharing the exact same beliefs and more about grappling with convictions. My experiences have shown me the importance of depth and reflection in relationships beyond what is immediately present. Sharing matters of faith, worldviews, dreams, hopes, etc. serve to increase depth, vulnerability, and intimacy within relationships.