Lenten Reflection - Mark 10:1-16 by Miles Brandon
"10 Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan.Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them. 2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 “What did Moses command you?” he replied. 4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” 5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. 6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered,“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” 13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” Mark 10:1-16
Both of the two “teachings” contained in these 16 verses, the first about divorce and the second children, are, in my mind, ultimately about connection. Brené Brown says that the thing that all humans crave most is love and belonging, and I agree. Further I would say that the two are intimately connected. We crave, or more so, we are made for deep and meaningful connections...for belonging one to another and all to God in relationships suffused by love. Jesus’ teaching on divorce reminds us of the pain-filled reality that relationships between humans are not easy and become broken. The love that was once present and so easily recognizable can feel and, indeed, seem lost. I for one do not think Jesus’ teaching on divorce is intended to discount the reality that relationships, even those we might see as most intimate, do in fact, for too many reasons to count, come to an end or, perhaps from a Christian perspective, radically change. Instead, I think he is simply holding up for us the ideal as something worth working toward in a relationship of any sort. That is seeking and working for relationships in which we recognize our mutual belonging one to another in a love filled connection that brings meaning, direction and flourishing to our lives individually and together.
Striving for this goal in our life and in our relationships requires partnering of every sort to change over time…thus every relationship looks different over time. This includes but is not limited to marriage. Marriages indeed, at times, end, but that does not mean that the relationship has to end in its entirety. I think the goal in the ending of any relationship, including a marriage, is to rediscover what life together looks like now that it has become something very different than it was before. I believe this requires naming our loss, naming our mistakes, experiencing grief, seeking forgiveness, and seeking a sort of reconciliation that might include walking apart as healed and whole as possible. Then we are best positioned spiritually, emotionally and otherwise to embrace healthy future relationships that include the love and belonging that we all need and of which we are all entirely worthy. We are a people of Cross and Resurrection and so we see a death, whether physical or in the context of a relationship, as more gate than grave. At our best, this may indeed look like something altogether different than what was before…but still good and Godly and hope-filled. Remembering always that we are first loved by and belong to God, and God’s love is indeed perfect, never wavers, and makes all other relationships to which we belong…in which we love and are loved…possible.