When I was in high school and college, I was known for never really being happy in my relationships. My brothers used to tease me that I hurt all the young men I dated. And you know, they were right. I frequently would grow bored with my relationships and then move on. When I met my husband, we quickly became friends and when we started dating I worried that I would lose my best friend because I knew that I had never had a relationship that I hadn’t grown bored with. In the past, the young men either had nothing in common with me, treated me poorly, or just didn’t stretch me intellectually.
But that wasn’t and still isn’t the case with Bill. Our relationship was not just based on infatuation because with time and living together that just isn’t enough in the long run. Our relationship is grounded in mutual respect, love, and intellectual compatibility. There is something sacred about how we are called to approach healthy relationships. We approach them in the same way as we approach our relationship with God. This does not mean that all marriages are healthy or sacred. It means that the relationship with the right person is. This is the point of Mark’s first lesson. There is something sacred about the trust, love, and care that go into healthy sacred relationships. The trust is as sacred and innocent as the trust of a child; it is to be as faithful and dedicated as the love of a child.
This is why the section about marriage is back to back with the discourse about children. Children trust with innocence; they love with all intensity; they don’t hold grudges or judge people. Children learn to be mean. They learn to judge. They learn to hate. They learn all this from interactions in society and with adults.
Christ calls us to approach one another and God as a child would. Instead of children quietly watching and learning from us, we should be learning from them. We should be learning how to trust, how to be vulnerable, and how to love, forgive, and be open to the possibilities that God places before us. Dostoyvsky advises that we should, “Love children especially, for they too are sinless like the angels; they live to soften and purify our hearts and, as it were, to guide us.” As we live our lives, we often become a bit jaded and suspicious and at times callous. We can’t begin to approach and understand the sacredness of the love of Christ without attempting to approach God as a child and to dedicate ourselves to that relationship as we do the institution of marriage.
We are being called to be better versions of ourselves, to allow for God’s presence to make us better people just as we hope our spouses will do for us. We are called to put the same effort into our earthly relationships as we do into our spiritual ones. People matter. Children matter. We need to put thought into the decisions that affect others around us. We are called to with love for those around us.
In my maternity leave, I have gotten to see just how innocent children are. Madeleine loves without thought for who people are. She trusts those who are in her life with a beautiful vulnerability. She does not know the pain that humanity can cause. All she knows is the love of mommy and daddy, grandmas and grandpas, and the love of all who rush to see her when we are out in public. I wish that I was less jaded and could easily trust and love others as she does. Children are our guide towards relearning how to develop and have relationships. Children don’t care what we look like, which is good because I spent most of my maternity leave covered in baby vomit, drool, and at times pee. Children don’t seek out revenge and they are loyal. This is the type of relationship that is the holiest. This is the sacred relationship we seek in a marriage and it is the relationship God calls us to work towards living out each and every day. It is the path towards a happy faithful life.
We are called to love unconditionally. We are called to honor and respect one another. We are called to seek out those people who will make us the best version of who we are, those individuals who complete us, as Eve completed Adam at creation. Remember the words of Christ when he said, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it”. This kingdom of God is not a place, so much as a way of life. It is not concrete but rather very abstract. We see it in our relationships; we experience it in the way we are loved and the way we love others. This is why our relationships matter so much. This is why we are called to work towards a life lived in love for one another, respect for others, and a genuine care and concern for the well being of humanity. So go forth this week and seek to love more fully; go forth this week and seek those relationships that make you the best that you can be.
 Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, 19th century.
 Mark 10:15, RSV.
(Based on Genesis 2:18-24 and Mark 10:2-16)