Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

by John Howard Farmer

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Asking for God’s Forgiveness


Let’s rethink our marital relationships.

Occasionally word of distress, pain and suffering has come to my ministry. Some of the young couples I’ve married, for whom I’ve been praying, seek to serve, have separated. Some divorced.

The Bible holds out a mandate of mutual respect for us. It sets for us a model of perfect harmony and co-sacrifice as ways unto a long partnership. It also holds out a hand of forgiveness when we fail.

Down at the Roaring Fork Baptist Church, Gatlinburg, Tenn., a senior deacon years spent, told this story about his dog “Groceries.” “Groceries” was a black and tan coon dog, an older chap. He was a dog with a reputation for being a solid hound, with a dogged determination to see a project through. Take old “Groceries” out in the woods and let him nose around a bit first and soon enough off he would dash. Other dogs, not so old, not so experienced would run along behind old “Groceries” often passing him up and bellowing off into some holler or up some creek branch. The other dogs, armed with energy, propelled by enthusiasm would yip and bark, dash here and there and eventually run in circles.

Just like clockwork old “Groceries” would amble through, get a fresh snout of information and plod ever onward toward the goal. True to form the other pups would jerk in line, rush after the master and begin their youthful explosions all anew. Again, old “Groceries” would plod through and place himself square in front of the tree where the object of his hunt sought refuge high in the branches.

Old “Groceries” true voice would finally announce that he had found the goal. Of course, the other pups yipped and barked as if somehow, they had contributed to the hunt. Ah, youth.

If there is anything on which rests the blame for families falling apart it might just be youth. Young persons are too often over-exposed to each other in arenas where passions and lusts roam unchecked. The workplace, racetracks, boat yards, fishing holes, family vacations and yes, church, are just a few of the places where such overexposure gets us into trouble.

If we lack the singular ambition to see our marriages through with the dogged determination of old “Groceries” we will be as aimless as those other pups.

Most times this overexposure gets us into trouble because we see in some other youthful lass, some other handsome chap, that which we once saw in our own mates. It sparks that gleam in our eye and harkens us to what might be, not what is.

My friends, marital indiscretions are not necessarily reason enough to get a divorce. Wait a minute, I am not talking about a repeated philanderer. I am talking about a man or woman who simply allowed his or her emotions to surface in the wrong way, at the wrong time.

Things at home are tough. Bills pile on. We stop primping and posing each for the other. We take things for granted. Romance dies. Look in a mirror; better yet, look into the mirror of your soul. Family pressures get burdensome. So, I’ll check out the guy in the next booth, that gal over by the water fountain. It usually begins innocent enough; often compounds, and then destroys two families.

Whatever drove us to seek newer opportunities obscured some salient points. Now, with a failed marriage (torn by indiscretion) we are party to a lifelong bifurcation of emotions.

Divorce rarely heals. Children will be pitted against each other and parents. Lawyers will be needed to negotiate. Properties once too burdensome to pay for will become contested. Finances that drove us to our dalliance now are added to child support, alimony payments and stressed weekly reunions. And we thought we had problems before.

The Bible touts us to accept forgiveness. It teaches us to forgive. It is a book about sacrifice. Our marriages are worth sacrifice. We need enter them with a dogged determination that will see us through, not leave us down some troublesome path which our youthful indiscretions lead us.

Before you call your mom, before you line up the guys at the bar, before you hire a lawyer, slow down. Sure, it hurts, it hurts bad. But, if you can find it in your heart to forgive, like Christ does, many marriages can be saved. Get your goal in mind, set your site on the hunt. You want, we all want marriages that will last. Remember old “Groceries” and how his plodding seemed unpopular, often stodgy. He was the winner, not those who jerked and yipped and went astray. “Groceries” learned from his youthful mistakes, he didn’t give up. Pray, ask for God’s forgiveness in your own life. Lift your spouse to God. Give your hurt some time. Get help. Stay married, please.