Viktor Frankl wrote that to be human is to be conscious and to be responsible, and to be conscious that we are responsible.
There are things we know without being conscious of this knowledge. For example, we might claim to believe in divine providence and that everything that happens in life is for a reason but until we walk with and breathe this knowledge we’re not conscious of it.
Imagine really and truly knowing that absolutely everything that happens to you is life-sent (i.e. G-d-sent) as a personal message designed to help you move out of your stuck places, heal you and make you more complete.
Wouldn’t this make every moment of every day amazingly meaningful and exhilarating ? You wouldn’t waste time complaining. Instead you would use all of your gifts – the ones that feel good and the ones that don’t feel so good – to the maximum and be an instrument for positive change.
Since everything is included in this law its application to human relationships is evident as well. When his enemy Shimi ben Gera was cursing kind David, the response of David was: “Let him curse!” Without freeing Shimi from responsibility, he saw the incident as a heaven-sent personal message.
Therefore imagine now that you view all your relationships with people in this way. In any given encounter I am here to help this person or he is here to help me develop materially, emotionally or spiritually. We have gifts we’re meant to give one another.
As I was busy with these thoughts the verse I chose to focus on today in my prayer-preparation was Psalms 16:8 I put G-d’s presence before me always for He is at my right hand; I will not falter
The word shiviti (G-d ‘s presence) has in it the word shavei (equal), implying a face-to-face encounter, a meeting between equals.
Can we truly encounter G-d as equals?
We can, because G-d “lowers Himself” so to speak to be with us and we also elevate ourselves to be with G-d. What does this mean?
We can use the example of lowering and elevating in human-to-human relationships to explain this lowering and elevating in the human-divine relationship. Two people start out as unequal and one person either lowers himself or raises the other in order to speak to eye to eye, as equals.
Let’s say I am above the other. The truth is: Who do I think I am that I am above someone else and I have to “lower” myself for this person! Yet we do sometimes feel this way. People sometimes display behaviors that are rude or distasteful to us. They embarrass us, aggravate us or demonstrate inferior character traits. This makes us feel superior, and as soon as the relationship becomes unequal communication gets blocked. It is no longer face-to-face.
But if I stop and think beyond “I don’t like this person’s behavior” and ask: Why were we two put together? What am I meant to learn from this person and what is he or she meant to learn from me? Inappropriate behavior is always a sign that they themselves are suffering. How can I ease their suffering? How can I assert what I believe without losing my compassion? How can I express my needs and boundaries while maintaining respect for theirs?
The end of the verse reflects the corrective experience made possible by these two directions of lowering or elevating. G-d lowers himself to be with you when you are feeling lowly, awestruck in the face of the divine encounter. In this situation G-d is with you at your right side to support you from falling.
Alternatively the end of the verse reflects an elevating. G-d lifts us up by helping us in our “rightness” or uprightness, that is, when we are emulating Him by rising to our true noos, or human qualities of compassion, standing for values and so forth.
This is similar to the experience of being in the company of a superb listener. At such times I have experienced an “elevation” in which I can feel myself assimilating the other person’s good listening skills. I can think of one particular friend who never rushes to answer my comment with her own thoughts but first squeezes out my thoughts to make sure I have fully and completely expressed all I had to say, before she responds with her thoughts. When I’m around her I tend much more to do the same for her.
Once you realize life didn’t happen by accident you realize that every moment you’re given something. G-d is not some guy in the sky making crazy demands. G-d is the source of life and is in all of reality. Everything is infused with spirituality.
Everything is a gift to be grateful for and every encounter between two people is a gift to be grateful for.
Knowing this reminds me to stop and ask: What is the gift of this encounter? Why was it given especially to me? How can I elevate myself to be in this face-to-face encounter in which I can use the gift of this relationship for the purpose of which it was sent to me?