Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Very Complicated Business


This Sunday, we continued a conversation around the first stories/myths of "Genesis."  What a wild, far-ranging, exciting conversation it was!  We read and discussed the creation of the first human(s), and explored the meanings of that story in our own experience.  What is this dance, this capacity for relationship and love?  How does it reflect God's image?  There's this exchange in the Bill Moyers series on "Genesis":

Bill Moyers: Let me raise another point.  Some people interpret this text to suggest that the normal social order in this world of Genesis is a man and woman being fruitful and multiplying.
Avivah Zornberg: Yes - but this is not necessarily a primary, natural idea because to be married is a very complicated business.  It's not just relating to my partner, but relating to an adversary as well.  The word that's used for the helpmate is "the opposite."  If a man deserves it, then he has a wife who is against him in the right ways.  If he doesn't deserve it, he has a wife is always with him in the wrong ways.  In Jewish tradition, we refer to being made in the image of God when a couple gets married, not when a baby is born.  We celebrate the maturity of a man and woman who have made certain choices and reached a point when they can begin to create their lives and create new human beings.  That's what it means to be in the image of God - not the primary natural condition.
While there's still some controversy here, I'm very much moved by what she's saying about loving relationship, about marriage, about human commitment. It has very little to do with "primary natural condition" and just about everything to do with making choices and creating life and struggling for a future. It has very little to do with "normal social order" and just about everything to do with the "image of God" - when that image implies maturity and love and even healthy "opposition."

What we're after in religious community (and in secular community too) is a way of nurturing, shaping, encouraging mature marriages.  In my experience, these come in all kinds of packaging.  What's most important is the commitment, patience and even tenacity it takes to build life together.  As Zornberg says, it's "a very complicated business."  Partners learn, in maturity, to push a little, pull a little, dance a lot, negotiate and compromise.  And it's in all of this that we lean into the image of God, assume the passion and patience of God, and create a future full of possibility and tenderness.

(And for the record, let me add how honored I am to serve a church that recognizes and celebrates all kinds of marriages - between women and men, between women and between men.  What matters is the commitment, the kindness, the love!  In my experience in ministry, every one of these marriages - devoted to love, shaped by patience - is a dynamic blessing shining light into the wide, wide world!)