Today’s blog explores the primary component of healthy relationship. And Jesus’ teachings on divorce.
This past Sunday contains the set of scripture readings that I think every pastor must dread – those scary readings on divorce. How can one speak to these readings from a place of integrity and compassion knowing that over 50% of the people you are preaching to have probably been through a divorce themselves? Years ago, I heard one brilliant preacher (a woman, and a Catholic nun) respond to these readings with the following:
Sometimes divorce is a matter of integrity.
Brilliant! Let’s face it. Divorce is real, it is often necessary and often it is in the highest good of all involved. If this is so, how can we understand these readings on divorce, especially the words that have been attibuted to Jesus. (Here’s the LINK to the readings if you want to read them for yourself.) As I prayed with these scriptures, I discovered the answer, hidden in plain sight.
What God Has Joined Together
Here are the words from Sunday’s gospel that revealed the hidden answer:
…and the two shall become one flesh.
So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate.
As I read this, our goal in relationship is to be open to and take the time to discern if the relationship we are considering making permananent is indeed joined together by God. If we believe that God’s desire is always for our highest good, then we can presume that this would be true in our intimate relationships as well. God wants what is best for us and therefore, recognizes the person that would reflect that highest good for us and we in return for them. The challenge is that we rarely (if ever) take the time to discern if the person we are with and considering making a permanent part of our life is indeed reflective of that highest good. But how in the heck do we discern this in the first place considering the complexity of human relationships, fate, karma, etc.? I believe there is a one-word answer to this question and that is AVAILABILITY.
We hear a lot in today’s writings on relationship about unavailable men and unavailable women and those who are prone to attracting these unavailable people into their lives. This unavailability is the cause of most suffering and pain in relationship. The remedy to this unavailability is to BECOME available and to SEEK availability in the other. In my Agape’ Meditation Newsletter from last week, I said the following about availability and how it relates to Jesus’ thoughts on marriage:
A relationship joined together by God occurs between two people who 1) know themselves 2) know God and 3) who through knowledge of God and self know how to be available to the other. While a relationship entered into during our youth may evolve into a relationship such as this, unless both parties do the work, this would indeed be rare.
In this reading on divorce, Jesus challenges us to a new standard of marriage—one that is grounded in self-knowledge, mutual honor, respect and support and one that reflects the love God has for us and the love we know within ourselves. A marriage such as this occurs between two people who are available to themselves first—knowing their gifts, their weaknesses, their passions and their joys and who are able to identify and claim their needs. Availability to the other comes second in our willingness to be vulnerable, to seek inside for the cause of the human compulsions that sometimes cause us to hurt the other, the willingness to admit these weaknesses, ask for help and say we are sorry. Above all, we love and honor each other in our humanness, support each other in our needs and work together for the common good. Not all people are willing to do the work of being available to self, then available to the other. It is here where divorce is of integrity.
The work of availability starts with us. We have to first cultivate availability within ourselves before we can expect it from another and as we grow in availability, so increases the chances of us drawing available people into our lives. And…this benefits us not only in our intimate partnerships, but in all of our relationships. Below are some questions that you can ask yourself as you begin to cultivate or desire to deepen availability in your own life:
Are you taking time everyday to be available to self in connection with God (meditation, prayer, contemplation, any form of spiritual practice)?
Have you taken time to know yourself– your gifts, your weaknesses, your fears, your unhealed wounds (rejection, betrayal, loss, disappointment) your personal triggers for: anger, frustration, disappointment, impatience, lashing out?
How are you at honoring all that exists within you? Do you love yourself without condition?
When you find yourself in a less than peaceful and loving state (when you are angry, frustrated, find yourself indulging in unhealthy or destructive behavior) how do you go about identifying its cause and seeking healing and release for that cause?
Do you know your needs and how are you at claiming them for yourself and for others? How are you at setting healthy boundaries around your right to have your needs met?
When you are in relationship with another, how are you taking time to get to know them—their gifts, their weaknesses, their fears, their joys, passions, sorrows, vulnerabilities?
When you intentionally or inadvertently hurt another, how are you at taking time to identify the unhealed wound within yourself that caused this behavior? How are you at working toward healing that wound? How are you at admitting this vulnerability to the other and saying that you are sorry for your hurtful behavior?