“Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other” (Rainer Maria Rilke).
DO YOU HAVE SOMEONE WHO PROVIDES “SANCTUARY” FOR YOU? If you do, you should count yourself blessed. It’s not a thing to be taken for granted. To have even one other person who loves you enough to provide a safe harbor for your heart, a place where you are completely protected and safe, is a great treasure.
Why is the sanctuary of a safe relationship so important? I think it’s because we all need a place of rest, and we can’t rest if we don’t feel completely safe. Meeting the challenges of life is a healthy exercise, but it’s also exhausting; it depletes our resources. And so we need, often desperately, a place where we can rest long enough to be replenished. The things that make someone else a sanctuary for us (trust, confidence, love, security, privacy, and so forth) are valuable because they give us breathing space. They make it possible for us to regroup.
If we’ve experienced the wonders of a safe relationship with another human being, the best way to show our gratitude is to pass the safety along to someone else, providing sanctuary for them. It takes a certain amount of character to do that, obviously. If we can’t be trusted with a confidence, for example, or if we don’t have the strength to extend unconditional love, we need not be surprised that others don’t feel entirely safe in our protection. But these are qualities we can grow in, and there isn’t a better reason to grow in them than the desire to offer other people a sanctuary in our hearts.
It’s a helpful exercise to make a list of specific things we would need to improve in, in order for others to find us safe. Do we need to work on our dependability? Do we need more wisdom and good judgment? Is our love lacking? Does our hope need refurbishing?
In the end, the thing many of us need is to work on creating a sanctuary in our own hearts, just for ourselves. After all, we may never find another person who provides the protection we need, at least fully. But there’s no reason why we can’t establish a quiet realm inside ourselves where we can rest and recover our strength.
“Preserve, within a wild sanctuary, an inaccessible valley of reveries” (Ellen Glasgow).