I have always felt slightly strange, even confuzzled as we like to say in our house, when my daughters have said, for the first time, that they are bringing their partners home to stay with us. As a dad I can’t help but ask ‘will I like them,’ ‘are they good for my girls,’ ‘is it serious,’ and ‘will their relationship be fruitful’ (I don’t actually use this word in everyday life, but since this is a church blog……….)
Thankfully I like both my daughter’s partners enormously. I think that they are both enjoying relationships, to borrow a phrase from Archbishop Justin, of ‘stunning quality.’ I am pleased for both of my girls and genuinely couldn’t care less that one is in a heterosexual relationship and that the other in a gay relationship. Once again: I really couldn’t care less. In fact I would want to go further and say that I am trilled, overjoyed, excited for both my girls.
I am thrilled, overjoyed and excited for a very simple theological reason: what I see in them and the quality of their relationships is something of the image of God. They, and their relationships, bring me right back to that most foundational of scriptures, Genesis 1, 26: ‘Then God said: ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.”
When I look at both of my daughters and their relationships what I see is loving-kindness, healing from significant (and sadly to an extent church ‘sponsored’) past hurts and pains, compatibility, complimentarity, dignity, purpose, possibility and strength.
What I see is the very image of God.
I freely admit that it is an image I see as though in a ‘mirror dimly,’ (1 Corinthians 13, 12) but it remains the image, the glimpse, I have been privileged, and graced, to see. Having glimpsed the image I have found myself captivated, enchanted, tutored, and changed. I guess that’s how Love works? I want to belong to a church that above all else allows Love to work; that is my deepest desire. My core belief is that nobody she be excluded from Love’s work and that where we see, even through a ‘mirror dimly,’ Love at work, our response should be to name it, affirm it and bless it.
As I reflect on the Preface to the Marriage Service (not, let the reader understand, that I am hastening them towards marriage) I can see no reason why relationships such as theirs shouldn’t be a pilgrimage towards ‘maturity in love,’ and I already know, without absolute certainty, that in ‘good times and in bad,’ through the (spiritual) quality of their relationships they have found ‘strength, companionship and comfort.’ I see no reason why their relationships shouldn’t both be signs of ‘unity and loyalty.’ I believe with all my heart that relationships such as theirs ‘enrich society’ and ‘strengthen community.’
The only problem is that I would, as a Parish Priest, be able to bless just one of their relationships, the heterosexual one, despite the fact that they are both of ‘stunning quality;’ despite the fact that through both of the relationships what I see is the very image of God.