Further thoughts: Divorce, children and the Garden of Eden

I love the creation stories, so my spidey senses start tingling whenever I see a reference.  As we were talking on Sunday, particularly when Anne spoke of the wholeness that God desires, I started noticing that this passage in Mark could be one of those references.

In How to Read the Jewish Bible, Marc Zvi Brettler makes the case that the story of the Fall originally functioned as an etiological tale about mortality and as a coming of age myth.  In short, if we can reproduce, we must also die.  A part of growing up is realizing that everything has its end and that we are distinct from the world around us.  In the Fall, in growing up, we begin to divide the world, to label, categorize and quantify the world for easy manipulation.  “The man shall rule over the woman.”  Our relationship with the earth is no longer the love of beauty and the trust of abundance, but a thing that we work for our own benefit.  Relationship is the way we erase those boundaries and find transcendence, if only briefly.

In Mark’s account of Jesus’ teaching on divorce and the subsequent passage about welcoming the children, it seems like a reversal of the fall, a recapitulation of the unity God intends for our lives.   Jesus explicitly references the Garden narrative in the division of humanity and the union of relationship.  Mark then turns immediately to the episode with the children.  The disciples try to turn them away; they are of no use to Jesus.  But Jesus welcomes them and tells us that “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”  Those who have their innocence, who have not learned to divide the world for control, are the ones who know the kingdom of God.

God’s realm is the realm of unity in relationship, but the world is fallen.  We can trust and hope and love.  We can have concern for others that doesn’t start with concern for ourselves.  And all the time, we know it is treacherous because the world is fallen.  In that vulnerability of trust and hope and love, there is danger and sometimes things don’t work out.  The trick — and I offer no solution here — is to keep the innocence of a child, to be willing to dive into relationship with all we are.

As is often the case, Regina Spektor lyrics seem like an appropriate way to close:

This is how it works
You’re young until you’re not
You love until you don’t
You try until you can’t

You laugh until you cry
You cry until you laugh
And everyone must breathe
Until their dying breath

No, this is how it works
You peer inside yourself
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took

And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else’s heart
Pumping someone else’s blood

And walking arm in arm
You hope it don’t get harmed
But even if it does
You’ll just do it all again



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