In Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening, he writes about how pearl divers work in pairs, explaining, “without scuba tanks or regulators, one waits at the surface tending the lines tied to the other who soft steps the sand for treasures he hopes that he’ll recognize. He walks to the bottom, watching the leaves of vegetation sway, and sways himself till she tugs the cord. He swallows the little air left as he ascends. Aboard, they talk for hours, placing what was seen, rubbing the rough and natural pearl. In the morning, she dives and fills their baskets, and he counts the time, hands wrapped around her line.’’
This symbiotic rhythm of partnership speaks about more than just pearl diving. It is a beautiful metaphor for the ways we are created to live, work, and thrive in relationships. God has created us to be relational beings, and God has designed us so that we will grow and thrive when we are connected to others.
And just like the pearl divers, we learn the importance and art of taking turns in relationships. Sometimes we are on the surface, tending to the lines, ensuring all the details are taken care of so the other has the space and energy to explore. Other times we are the ones who have the freedom to dive deep into an endeavor, knowing another is overseeing, juggling, and managing the intricacies of life.
Each role is needed and comes with a different set of circumstances. The key to balance is allowing each person an opportunity to take turns. One cannot always be about the work of deep diving and walking on the bottom without risking running out of oxygen. One cannot always be about surface tending and ensuring all is taken care of for others without risking fatigue.
We need time to do both and experience the value, importance, and beauty of living in both roles and realms. This is the gift and responsibility of being in relationships, in partnerships that value and encourage interdependence, taking turns, and the necessity of exploring the inner and outer landscapes of life. This is the give-and-take of trust and love in action. It is the way God hopes for us to live tethered to one another, remembering we need each other to survive and thrive.
Blessings, Rev. Shana Johnson, ISC Conference Minister