A joke – an elderly couple were visiting the county fair. While wandering around they noticed that helicopter rides were being offered for fifty dollars. The wife turned to the husband and excitedly said, “Let’s go on a helicopter ride!” The old man just shook his head and replied, “Honey, that’s a lot of money. Fifty dollars is fifty dollars.” and they walked off. The next year the same couple was back at the fair and again helicopter rides were being offered for fifty dollars. The woman wanted to go for a ride but again her husband just shook his head and said, “Sorry, fifty dollars is fifty dollars.” The woman sighed and the old couple walked off. The next year, they were again back at the fair and again helicopter rides were being offered. Again the wife asked her husband to go up on a ride but again the man answered “Fifty dollars is fifty dollars.” This time though the pilot was nearby and overheard their conversation. He stopped the couple and said, “Listen, I will make you a deal. I will take you up and give you the best and most thrilling helicopter ride of your lives and if I hear not a single thing from you – no words, no laughing, no exclamations – your ride will be free!” The old man – always quick to get something for nothing – immediately said yes and up the three went in the helicopter! The pilot was true to his word – it was the best and most thrilling helicopter ride! The day was beautiful and you could see for miles! The pilot, to add a little excitement (and try to get some sound out of the two) even steeply banked the helicopter one way and then the other way throughout the ride. The pilot was amazed though because throughout the whole ride he heard not one sound from the elderly couple. Finally, after landing he turned around and realized that the old man was not in the helicopter. “Where is your husband?” he asked the woman. “Oh, he fell out about thirty minutes ago.” Shocked, the pilot asked, “Why didn’t you say something?!”. “Well,” she said, “fifty dollars is fifty dollars!”
Relationships are a mystery are they not? When we step back to think about it though, we quickly realize how so much of our lives – our time, our attention, our energy, our focus – is caught up in relationship! Whether it be the relationship of friendship, of family, of work, of church, of our relationship with God or (as today’s readings highlight) the very ancient and unique relationship of husband and wife. So much of all that we are about and are is caught up in this mystery of relationship. The readings for today cast some light on this deep, abiding and sometimes conflicted mystery.
The first truth shared is that we are made for relationship. God himself says, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” God – who himself is a trinity of relationships – has built within us the need for relationship. And it is a need critical for our own flourishing! We are in essence hardwired for relationship and we only become who we are meant to be through relationship. The vocation of marriage witnesses this in an utterly unique and potentially holy way. Husbands and wives are meant to help one another grow in holiness – which means comfort, support but also challenge when needed. The “two becoming one flesh” is a great mystery that God himself has written into creation that should not be passed over lightly.
The second truth is that this need and drive for relationship has – along with everything else – been wounded and warped by sin. This is a sad reality and how much pain it causes in our world and in every individual life. Angry words, sad, poor and hurtful choices, violence in all sorts of ways even over generations and whole nations wound and leave scars that last a lifetime or more. No form of relationship (including marriage) is immune from these dangers and this hurt.
I speak from my experience and what I witnessed in the lives of my parents. When I was in fourth grade my parents divorced. My father was an alcoholic who tried but was never able to overcome his disease. My senior year of high school he drank himself to death. My mother was faced with a very tough choice on how to raise her boys in the best possible way within a bad situation. They divorced. It hurts when the very real wounds of sin break a relationship. It is almost natural – a “sad natural” – that a hardness of heart sets in when there has been pain.
The third truth – and this is the saving message – is that there is one who has come and who remembers (because he was there) the truth of relationship before the hardness of heart. “Jesus told them, … ‘But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’” This one who has come is neither afraid nor scandalized by suffering. The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that, in fact, he has been made perfect through suffering. He is neither afraid nor scandalized by suffering and he is willing to walk each one of us back to the truth and the wholeness and the authenticity found in the beginning of God’s creation.
The fourth, and final truth for today – wherever you are in life allow Christ to walk you back to that wholeness and authenticity of relationship we were made for by God before the hardness of heart. If you are in marriage – allow Christ to continually walk you and your spouse back to that wholeness of relationship which existed prior to the hardness of heart. Every day! Every day, allow Christ to walk you back. Every day do the work that is needed! Do not take anything or anyone for granted. If you are in the brokenness of divorce realize, please realize that Christ is not put off, he is not scandalized. He is the one made perfect through suffering. He meets you there in the suffering – he heals what needs to be healed, he strengthens what needs to be strengthened. Allow him to walk you back to the wholeness and authenticity that God wants for you before the hardness of heart. Allow him to walk with you.
Christ remembers, he remembers before the hardness of heart.
Christ, help us to remember.
Christ, walk each one of us back to the life that was before the hardness of heart. Walk each one of us into the fullness of your Father’s Kingdom.