The Words of Life

Divorce is not just a legislated norm. It’s a way of life. It’s a habit of being, a state of mind, a context for becoming.

As I’ve read “Plato’s Bedroom” by David O’Connor I’ve been struck by the strangeness of his presentation of Christian love. O’Connor writes of power of the words we say, of their grasping towards infinity.

“I love you.” We see these words pass into a marriage bond, “for better, for worse.” And the Christianity comes with the recklessness of it all. The Word always takes on irrevocable flesh. When Christ became man, did He know all the consequences of His suffering? He certainly wasn’t prepared for it all, because He had to prepare for it, with so much prayer and fasting.

He did ask God to take it back once. “Let this cup pass…” And then He asked why God forsook Him. “Eloi eloi…” But He stuck to the plan, even when the plan sucked. That’s the Christian way? Sticking to the plan for love?

I suppose that under this view, divorce isn’t so much a breaking as a descending, a decision to no longer grasp at the words that were so meaningful to you. It’s a decision to be less than what you once wanted to be. The vowed Christian world of aspiration becomes a world of descendancy.

Yes, there may be an infinitude of compelling reasons. But reasons and choices are not the same thing. It’s the mark of fear and irresponsibility to conflate the two. At a certain point, you assemble the reasons because you want some kind of foundation for your choice, but the reasons didn’t just organize themselves. You set them into motion as you set upon your plan. Don’t tell me that you were compelled by the force of the world. A world is created by the force of your choice. The pieces only fall into place in the places you have laid out.

In this view, divorce is not just a cultural institution. It’s not just a legislated norm. It’s a way of life. It’s a habit of being, a state of mind, a context for becoming.

Divorce here is a refusal to live within the force of your words, the length of your promises, the extremity of your desires. It’s a meeting of fear and control.

But is this what we do with all our words? What other commitments have we broken? And if not this, then why not that? Why should I mean the length of these promises when I’ve never meant the length of any promises in my life? Because it is a sacrament, because of the compulsion of canonical strictures and the oversight of my neighbors? Because a priest and a catechism and Jesus said to? Because it’s the Law?

But do you search at night for a pathway to divorce in the Law? Do you fantasize for a loophole in these strictures? Do you regret the narrowing box? And then you hear that the way of the Law is death, and death comes to those who live by the Law.

Friends ask me “how far” they can go with their girlfriends while still being “in” Church teaching. They’re so concerned with being “in” that they’ve forgotten to look out onto the face of the other and ask, “How can I love most fully?” They would rather be confined than charismatic.

Where is freedom? Where is life? Supposedly life is in the Spirit, and the Spirit speaks in Truth. And you, Body of Christ, you speak as the Body of Christ. Do you speak in fantastic dreams, and breathe them into reality? Are you bold? Do you love promiscuously? Do we learn to live the things we say?

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