—by Denise Hill

The Gospel of Mark has always fascinated me. Back in my second year at UChicago, we had an assignment in one of my classes where our professor wanted us to read the Gospel of Mark in a way that was a bit outside of the norm — we had to read the entire gospel in one sitting. I remember, at the time, being steeped in deep & heavy questions about God & my spiritual journey; questions of love, and uncertainty about how my purpose would unfold in my life. How did it intersect with the pressing norms of meritocracy and notions that we all know subconsciously of how one “ought” to do things? Where, and how, and in what ways did the intersection of my age, and gender, and race, and class, shape and form this march of academic and hopefully professional attainment — fulfillment? success? And where and who exactly was God and this Jesus in the swirl of all this. The Gospel of Mark — filled itself with folks with so many swirling questions and norms, longings and dreams, stories within stories —  it drew me in, and left me speechless & renewed.

I found myself back in gospel of Mark Saturday night, fascinated by what Jesus did with a passage that is so familiar to so many:

“One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he [Jesus] answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”” (Mark 12: 28-34, NRSV)

It’s a familiar passage, with an unfamiliar addition: “you shall love the Lord your God…with all your mind” is not an original part of the prayer/text Jesus was reciting (see Deuteronomy 6:4-5) Why did Jesus add loving God with our mind to this commandment?

Maybe Jesus was challenging folks to come out of the boxes life had put them in. Here in this text, Jesus continues to do what Jesus has done the entire gospel, which is to call, and heal, and teach people from out of the mindlessness of the mundanity & monotony — and for some the agony — of where they find themselves. Maybe this was yet another invitation out of the boxes life had put folks in.

The mind in this text is the interwoven fabric of our imagination, our feeling, and our purpose. I can’t help but to think of the incredible canvas that each of these together become in our lives. I can’t help but think of all the ideas that spring from them that maybe we ignore, or set down, or stop pursuing. All the ideas that we could make real, that maybe don’t quite fit into the boxes of our own limitations, or the limitations we’ve borrowed & been taught by others. Maybe this is how we find our way along the tumult of all of our being and all of the questions of life across the various seasons and stages of life.

What if love requires something of us that we never quite expected?
What if love requires us to create?

And not to create in that way where we tie it to ambition, and notions of success & career, or any of those ladder-climbing norms we are all so familiar with; but what if love requires that we create because creation is a reflection of who we are — of our most authentic self? What if love requires that we show up as our most authentic selves, and we can’t help but create because that’s what we do?

Maybe love requires that we begin again, to lean into all the curiosity & artistry that the intersection of our imagination, feeling, and purpose is — not for status or title or ambition; not for likes, or fame, but as a love letter, a love song, a love-life to God.

Prayer: Creator God — God who dreams, and feels, and wonders — be with us as we read through the full gospel that is each of our lives. Gives us grace as we lean into our questions and grace for all the spaces and places where we might discover we’ve become comfortable in boxes that we may not have realized we were in. Grant us the courage and faith to move in the broadness of the unique imagination, and feeling, and purpose, or the setting forth, you have gifted us with. Grant us the courage & the faith to love You with our minds. And remind us, that it is this that is the true abundance.