My daughter is getting to “that” age. Yep, she’s discovered that there are such things as “boys.” I invite you all to pray and fast that I survive!
Seriously, one of the most powerful concerns I have as a parent is guiding my children to avoid the shortsightedness that seems to dominate the human race when it comes to relationships. Of course, relationships is what humanity is created to embrace. But the brokenness of the human race seems to see us stumbling into unhealthy relationships all the time. It’s the norm rather than the exception. So, how do we guide our children to avoid this short sightedness and avoid the inevitable heart ache of bad choices in relationships?
We start by embracing the wisdom of not being “mismated!”
Look at our lesson today in 2 Corinthians 6:11-16:
Brethren, our mouth is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return — I speak as to children — widen your hearts also.
Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, as God said.
Notice what Paul uses as an example of shortsighted thinking and actions – “Mismated with unbelievers.” Today, over and over again, people who self identify as Christians are entering into marriage with either non-Christians or other Christian traditions radically different than their own. It isn’t a mistake that the Apostle uses the choice of a mate to illustrate the dangers of shortsighted spirituality. Especially in today’s culture of an overly “romantic” mindset, our emotions and desires are encouraged to find immediate gratification, and, if it doesn’t work out, well, then get a divorce.
But the Apostle offers us a path away from such sadness, and I find his imagery fascinating!
St. Paul tells the Corinthians that his “mouth is open to you” and his “heart is wide.” An open mouth and a wide heart! And then he tells the Corinthians to “widen” their hearts.”
Paul’s open mouth reveals two images that teach us the wisdom necessary to avoid short sightedness. An open mouth reminds us of the baby birds in their nest waiting with trusting and hungry open mouths to be fed by their mother. Are you open mouthed to the wisdom of the faith learned over centuries of being led by the Holy Spirit? Are you hungry for that wisdom? An open mouth also reveals the power of honest communication based on love and not mere power. Paul speaks plainly to the Corinthians and avoids the sickness of passive-aggressive manipulation for the more Christian and spiritually healthy path of honest words said in love.
And a wide heart means that a person’s inner life is expansive and expanding with the ever-growing Presence of God in their life. A heart widened is a person who has shown so much attention to their spiritual maturity that they have actually allowed the grace of God to make their interior life bigger to hold more of the grace and wisdom of God. This spiritual labor cannot be accomplished without the desire to know God growing ever stronger inside of that believer and coupled with the daily and purposeful practice of the faith in their lives. No wonder we call Mary, the Theotokos, “She who is more spacious than the heavens!” We call her Panagia because she is our best example of a wide heart ready to receive Christ and have Him birthed into the world!
Today, do you want to avoid the consequences of “mismatedness” in your relationships? Do you want to find meaning and even hope in the most tragic and hopeless of circumstances? The answer is an open mouth hungry for God and lovingly communicating His wisdom and a heart widened by the spiritual disciplines of the faith to hold Him Who cannot be held! This is the Orthodox on Purpose way of life!
This is a hard lesson lesson for me. As someone who desires marriage sometimes I feel like I have no choice but to be mismatched. There dont seem to be any people of the opposite sex who are orthodox and also unmarried.
Hi Fr. Barnabas — I appreciate your words here, my post is in response to Joel: There are a lot of people — women — who are Orthodox Christian and also unmarried. If your church does not have a Young Adult Ministires group, perhaps you can find one in your area — this covers ages into the mid-30’s in our diocese (Antiochian Diocese of Miami and the Southeast. And there’s Orthodox Christian Singles website and facebook page — I’m happily married for 33 years and so not a member of these groups. God bless your efforts, Joel — and He will bless you!