Relationships are a lot like rubber bands. An elastic can be stretched and pulled for brief periods, but once the stress is released, it returns to its original shape. Yet, if it is stretched indefinitely, left hanging and bearing some heavy weight, it eventually loses its elasticity. It becomes misshapen. Its vibrancy and purpose are lost. Something similar can be said of relationships long overburdened by issues and tensions. They eventually lose their shape. They are overstretched and cannot find their way back. A rubber band can also be pulled beyond its capacity. It can snap. Sadly, we know the same is true in relationships. An act of betrayal, a gross transgression of boundaries, or some other disloyalty can sever any friendship. Most relationships can bend and stretch with little setbacks and peccadillos (they can even be strengthened by them), but a grave breach of trust is almost always the end.
Imagining our friendship with God as a rubber band, we might picture it as a red elastic with one word written upon it: Love. This is the impression Saint John gives when he writes, “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” To remain in God’s friendship, to keep the elastic strong and vibrant, is simple. We simply have to remain in love. That elastic can handle some stretching now and then, namely our venial sins, but it quickly regains its shape, and is perhaps even stronger. But an intentional and grave violation of love, a mortal sin, is too much to bear. Every mortal sin steps away from God because it steps away from love. Of course, God can return us to his friendship, but that requires we return to him (most certainly by way of the confessional).
Picturing our relationships as rubber bands is helpful. There are various sizes with various names written upon them. Some are larger; some are smaller. Some can carry great weight; some would break with the slightest stress. Some start out small but grow to become among the greatest. Others appear great in the beginning, but shrink over time. Of course, it’s very important to know which is which, lest we lean too heavily upon a weak one, or fail to appreciate sufficiently a strong one. But regardless of the size or strength of a friendship, it is always the same thing that gives it its vibrancy and purpose: love. Love is to a friendship what rubber is to an elastic. Therefore the greatest threat to our friendships is sin and selfishness, anything corrosive of love. Greed, lust, anger, or any other vice, make us bad friends. That is true both with God and with one another.