Holding the Rope that Ties Us Together

I'm up at our retreat, Potter's Inn at Aspen Ridge. We are doing a soul care intensive, a five day private retreat, this week with a couple who told us today, "This is a last-ditch attempt to save our marriage."  They are over in their cabin tonight. They are sitting with what happened in our first day together. I'm sitting here in my cabin wondering what tomorrow will bring.This morning, I read words from Henri Nouwen which seemed appropriate. He said that sometimes we need to tie a rope around our ankles when we go into the black holes of other people's desperation--and ask our community to hold the rope for us so that we, ourselves, don't slip into the darkness we are trying to help people escape from.  It's a beautiful image---thinking that some people would actually care enough to hold the rope tied to my own ankles so that we can do our work; fulfill our calling and help rescue souls in danger.I'll not spend much time wondering who in this world would care enough to hold my rope for me but I do know there are a few who truly do care. That assurance gives me the courage to keep trying to help people; keep trying to find the light for people to navigate their way out of the darkness.I am reminded of a line in Mary Oliver's poem---one of my favorite of hers when she simply says, "The heart has many dungeons. Bring the light. Bring the light."Each morning, we'll do our soul work together--this couple and us.  Each morning, I'll imagine this rope--this sense that we are not alone in doing this work.A last ditch effort to save a marriage is a high calling--don't you think? Much is at stake. Much!Hold the rope, would you?  When you hold the rope, we are truly partnered together.Stephen W. Smith