You know that feeling. That desire to connect with someone. That desire to feel the intimacy of a long conversation with someone who truly understands where you’re coming from. The longing to rest in your spouse’s embrace. The need to open the cavern of solitude to a world full of people who, like a prism, display the many facets of your identity by the way they relate to you.
“[We can] link man’s original solitude with the awareness of the body, through which man distinguishes himself from all the animalia and ‘separates himself’ from them, and through which he is a person.” Man and Woman He Created Them, 6:3
From the very beginning, our physical make up, our bodies themselves, clearly indicated our difference from all who were not also persons. Adam could see this difference, certainly, but it went much deeper than that.
“Man is ‘alone’: this is to say that through his own humanity, through what he is he is at the same time set into a unique, exclusive, and unrepeatable relationship with God himself.” Man and Woman He Created Them, 6:2
God gave Adam dominion over the earth and the animals. Adam knew he was different from the rest of creation. He knew he was working with God in a unique partnership to care properly for all that he saw around him.
But as he looked around, he must have wondered, “What next? How do I form and direct these earthly, human longings? Why do I feel like something is missing?” Cultivating the earth and herding animals wasn’t bridging the gap between the complex, yet limited human perception and the fulfillment of heaven. The purpose of Adam’s life was not clear to him.
And so God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I want to make him a help similar to himself.” Gen 2:18
How happy (and smitten) was Adam when he woke and first laid eyes on beautiful Eve!
“‘This time she is flesh from my flesh and bone from my bones. She will be called woman because from man has she been taken’ (Gen 2:23). In this way, for the first time, the man (male) shows joy and even exultation, for which he had no reason before, due to the lack of a being similar to himself.” Man and Woman He Created Them, 8:4
Don’t we know this joy and exultation as well? When we see an old friend for the first time in several months; when our spouse returns home from a business trip; when we first lay eyes on the baby that has been stretching and kicking in our womb for nine months.
But what is that feeling that wells up in our hearts in these moments of meeting? Why is it that our relationships with other people are so important and affect us so deeply?
Perhaps we all realize, deep inside, that every person we meet has a direct effect on our external response and our internal formation. Perhaps we realize that we do, indeed, need helps similar to ourselves to assist us as we stumble along on this earthly journey. A friend who points out when we are making unhealthy choices, a child who strengthens our virtues of patience and gentleness, a spouse who helps us to understand the real meaning of love. These relationships all reveal who we were created to be. They give us direction as they inflate our sails and steer our ship to the safe harbor of God’s mercy and love.
“…man became the image of God not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons, which man and woman form from the very beginning. Man becomes an image of God not so much in the moment of solitude as in the moment of communion. He is, in fact ‘from the beginning’ not only an image in which the solitude of one Person, who rules the world, mirrors itself, but also and essentially the image of an inscrutable divine communion of Persons.” Man and Woman He Created Them, 9:3
“…the image of an inscrutable divine communion of Persons.” When we come together in the most intimate relationship possible on earth–the marital act, we are imaging the Holy Trinity! Think about that for a moment. Isn’t that amazing? God intended for that embrace to foreshadow the perfect love, the joy, the ecstasy of being united with Him in heaven for eternity. This is what all of our human relationships are about. To help us get to heaven. To help us get to God.
And so we must nurture the unique opportunities to grow in virtue that each relationship presents us with. We must foster friendships that lift us up to the heavenly standards God knows we can reach. We must treasure the sacredness of marriage and the absolute holiness that lies within its intimate bonds.
Let us see each person in our lives as the image of God that he or she is and teach our children to do the same–because every relationship holds the opportunity to bring us one step closer to heaven.