Today's reading: Mark 10:1-12
In this week leading up to Palm Sunday, the focus is on the tenth chapter of Mark (conveniently divided into six tidy sections); it's a chapter that incorporates teachings, callings, encounters, prophecy, healings, gentle rebukes. To be honest I've been puzzling all day over how to write about today's passage, a text about (as some obviously pessimistic editors have titled it) Divorce. (I'd prefer to think of it as a text about marriage--after all, it includes Jesus' lovely sentiment about "the two become one flesh.") Without hours of study, research, commentary-reading, and especially prayer, I'm not sure how to get into such a complicated topic that touches so many lives today (as, apparently, it also did then). I have friends whose lives have been torn apart by divorce; others who chose it amicably; and we also know of couples whose divorces seem an unfortunate but obvious outcome of hasty, ill-conceived, immature marriages.
So as I've been thinking about today's reflection, I realized that perhaps it is worthwhile to take a step back and look at the "big picture" of Mark 10... maybe there is a theme throughout the chapter that can give me a starting place for considering this specific text. On the way to Jerusalem, looking toward the triumphal entry next Sunday, do the teachings of chapter 10 build a foundation for what is to come?
I think so. In each of the stories of chapter 10, Jesus is taking societal expectations and turning them upside-down... trying to show, over and over again, how God's expectations are different. How God's expectations are real.
In this case, God's expectations are real for relationships between men and women, who were created "in the beginning" by a God of pure love, and who were created to share love in such a way that they are no longer two separate beings, but one. Of course it is absurd to think of taking apart what was shaped by the Creator to be one single unit.
Still, Moses knew when he gave the law, and I think Jesus knew when he gave this "refresher course," that human beings are notorious for holding ourselves to much lower ideals than God does. It was no secret even then that humans are prone to chronic hard-heartedness (not to mention hard-headedness), and that "exceptions to the rule" had been allowed by God--not necessarily because God likes it, but perhaps because God is graceful, and patient with our failings and our foibles, our lack of maturity, our missteps, our variability.
We know that divorce is, statistically, a huge issue in our culture, and people point fingers in many, many directions to try to place the blame for the dramatic numbers. We may look to Jesus, teaching in this text, for a simple, straightforward, black-and-white response. But I think perhaps Jesus's teaching here is more rich than a simple "yes or no"; I think the bigger lesson has more to do with being joined than being separated. It's a lesson not just about what God doesn't desire for us, but about what he does. He wants us to be joined together.
Being joined is about origins--how we were meant to be from the beginning. Being joined is about awareness--how we open our relationships to God's shaping. Being joined is about independence--how we move away from our childhood dependencies to turn our focus to one another. And being joined is about union--how we become one entity, and, as one, continue in our lifelong journey of becoming.