What do strong, balanced relationships look like?


Got Religion? by journalist Naomi Schaefer Riley looks at the mass exodus of young adults from congregations nationwide and finds hope in something those of us who’ve given our lives to faith communities should have known all along: It’s all about building relationships. (You can read an in-depth interview with her right now.) Riley saw these truths through the lens of Templeton-funded research and her reporting from communities coast to coast. I’ve seen this in the lives of countless men and women I’ve counseled over the decades.

These days, I like to send people personal notes with photographs I’ve taken around the world. I want to leave them with vivid images—and a handful of words—that they may ponder over time.

Immediately after snapping this photo along the North American Plate in Iceland, I knew that I had captured a geologic symbol of human relationships. In nature, in construction and in relationships, a keystone holds two dynamic forces together in a delicate, precarious balance. Through the years, I have mailed this photo to newly engaged couples, along with an inscription, formatted as a simple poem, to remind them of the dynamic tension and balance necessary to sustain a thriving relationship.

Recently, I visited one of those couples—and I was delighted to see my photo and my words framed and displayed in their home.

Here are the words I send along with the photograph …

strong, courageous trust
delicate, interdependent,

imagination, empathy, sympathy,
understanding, honesty, and clear communication.
The bond is sustained by a
a capacity to change both mind and behavior
to create a safety net
where acts of
love and laughter
will be fostered.

PLEASE NOTE: If you care to pass this along to friends, I am giving you permission to reproduce the photograph and the words (please credit me and mention that I’m a writer for readthespirit.com). You’ll find that, if you have a common card-making program available on your computer, the image and words fit together nicely to form a greeting card. If you do follow this suggestion, please email us at [email protected] and tell us how you’ve passed it along. I’d love to hear from you.

(Originally published at readthespirit.com, an on line magazine covering religion, spirituality, values and interfaith and cross-cultural issues.)

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  1. Debra Darvick says


    Another wonderful photo and accompanying words. My eye was also drawn to the negative space formed by
    the stones. In a relationship, what do we do with the negative space? It’s as much a part of the relationship
    between the rocks (and people) as the relationship itself.

    Martin and I enjoy the same dynamic as we create our His Lens/My Pen images. I continue to enjoy the image you sent me of the barren and beautiful winter scene. Thank you for another great one.

    • Benjamin Pratt says

      Debra, “Well,” he says, stroking his scruffy beard, stalling for time, “perhaps the space is named by the eye and mood of the beholder. Perhaps it is Necessary Space, Calm Space, Positive Space, Sacred Space, Dancing Space, Angry Space, Grieving Space––or countless other labels depending on the current dynamic of individuals, communities or even climate surrounding the stone wall. Perhaps it is just the necessary space to write poetically about the symbolic beauty and tension of people and geologic formations.” Just saying’! Benjamin