by Rev. John Howard Farmer
I repeat this offering occasionally through the years because I pray for every marriage I perform to “take,” and lead the loving couple off into their maturity as much in love decades spent as on their wedding day.
Annually, this time of year, my upcoming calendar is ripe with wedding plans. Some of the couples are new to me: just stopping in for a session with “Marrying Sam.” Others are children of the Northern Neck who expect me to tie the knot tightly. We’ll see, won’t we?
Far too often word of distress, pain and suffering has come to my ministry. Some of the young couples, for which I’ve been praying, seeking 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 our favorite mountain church, the Roaring Fork Baptist Church, Gatlinburg, Tenn., a senior deacon told this story about his dog “Groceries.” He was a black & 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 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.
The true voice of old Groceries 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 sustained 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.
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 dared allow 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, friends at the fire station, the squad building. 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 life-long bifurcation of emotions.
Divorce rarely heals. Children will be pitted against 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 visitations… the courts become head of our families; 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. Most marriages are worth sacrifice. We must enter them with a dogged determination that will see us through, not lead us down some troublesome path, which our youthful indiscretions lead us. People, emotions, commitments are not like paper plates to be used and tossed when dirty.
Wait! 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, most 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 stogie. He was the winner, the champion, 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.