It was October’s Eve. After a walk in the beautiful fall weather, I retreated to our yard. I ambled around the house to offer my farewell to the colorful flowers and greenery which filled this past summer with such joy. As always, my dear husband put his green thumb to good use in selecting, arranging and nurturing the annuals which surrounded our home. Every October 1, he reluctantly pulls up his handiwork, making mental notes about the coming year’s selections all the while. When I said good-bye to my floral friends, I added my apologies for ignoring them for days at a time. Worry about our grandson’s a-bit-too-early birth drew me to my knees and away from much else. Happily, life has progressed miraculously well for Little Daniel. Still, I found myself painfully aware of life’s fragility that morning.
After paying due homage to my flowering friends, I sat on our porch to enjoy them a bit longer. Though I truly relish the outdoors and the change of seasons, I was having difficulty letting go of this summer’s life. In spite of my affection for winter, the thought of losing everything in sight to make way for snow was unbearable. I acknowledge that I have often filled this space with assertions of my certainty regarding the potential contained in every falling leaf. Each one settles in place to crumble, decay and enrich the soil beneath it. Even the browning petals and stems which Mike would pull from our flowerbeds promised new life to next year’s plantings. Still, melancholy overwhelmed me on that last day of September.
Sometimes, when life as we know it is threatened, pain engulfs us and threatens to rob us of our hope. For me, this is most true when the solutions to the problems at hand are beyond my grasp. When I finally admit that there is nothing I can do on my own, I turn to prayer. Over the years, I learned to take God’s love for us very personally. From the time I was a child, the people around me taught me that God’s love remains with us in the best and worst of times and through everything that occurs in between. Those who convinced me of these things took all that Jesus taught us about God’s love to heart. Their faith assured them that hopelessness simply isn’t an option for God’s children, and we are all God’s children. I turn to prayer in the midst of my worry because my faith assures me of the same.
With that in mind, I looked at our drooping blossoms differently. I admitted that my fear regarding our premature grandson had taken its toll. I also admitted that pouring out my heart to God even before I knew the outcome for Little Daniel made all of the difference in the world. Pained as I was, I knew that all would unfold as it should under God’s watchful eyes. Just as our dying flowers will nourish next year’s growth, my fearful worry refueled my love for my family and the many others with whom God blesses my life.
I share my October’s Eve struggle with you because Jesus’ stance in a passage from Mark’s gospel (Mark 10:2-16) seems to be something less than loving. I want to be certain that as you read you realize that Jesus’ harshness was directed toward the Pharisees and not toward God’s suffering people. The Pharisees were relentless in their efforts to trap Jesus in blasphemy. This passage tell us that the Pharisees put Jesus to the test with questions regarding divorce. Jesus’ answer made it crystal clear that he understood The Law regarding this issue. Afterward, Jesus continued to respond with love, mercy and compassion to those he met along the way, including those steeped in marital strife. God, who knows our unbearable suffering better than we do, offers the same to you and me.
Whether the life of a loved one or the life of a cherished relationship is threatened, God experiences our dread with us. It is not God’s intent to cause those of us who have experienced divorce to squirm with guilt. The decades I have spent assisting people with the annulment process have provided me a glimpse into their pain. Though my heart aches in response, God understands the pain of a failing marriage far better than I. Our human relationships can be sources of great joy, and God asks that we do our best to nurture that joy. When these relationships become sources of great sorrow, God asks that we address this sorrow honestly. Sometimes, we can work through the sorrow and return it to joy. Sometimes, we have no choice but to walk away. In either case, we do so within the embrace of a loving and merciful God.
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