You can’t talk about failure for long without mentioning marriage. For many of us, succeeding in marriage seems essential for us to feel okay about ourselves, whatever else is going on in our lives. This is because our sense of who we are involves our sexuality and our feeling of acceptance or rejection by a person we’re attracted to. When we find someone we “fall in love” with, and this emotional connection seems to be reciprocated, we may take the big step of committing to marriage. This makes us very vulnerable, opening us to the possibility of experiencing great joy, but also great pain. So, I thought in our sermon series “Life After Failure” we had to talk about marriage.
I plugged the words “marriage failure” into an on-line browser, and lots of entries came up. Among the first few were “12 Things That Can Cause Marriage Failure,” “10 Top reasons for Marriage Failure” and “7 Signs of a Failing Marriage.” When I examined these three lists, I found them to be totally different; no particular item appeared on any two lists. That means that there are at least 29 (and probably thousands of) things that can cause a marriage to fail. It’s a wonder that any marriage makes it, and even many that do can’t be labeled as successes in terms of happiness and fulfillment.
I thought it would be good to have some sharing on the church’s closed Facebook Group about our failures in marriage. Rob Ottaviano has led the way, and today we will add a personal account from Eileen Pino. Others have told us they would submit their own stories as well. These, of course, can be anonymous. Hopefully, we will interact among ourselves by replying to FaceBook posts. Those of you who wish to reply anonymously can do so through one of the pastors. Let’s promise that we will pray for each other as we share sensitive feelings.
Marriage in Bible times was much different from marriage in 2015. When we read about some of the cultural practices and expectations, we may think we’re observing married life on Mars. Yet I think we can identify with the same raw human experiences of intimacy’s pain and satisfaction within marriage.
It’s surprising to find that the Bible does not shrink from describing terrible marriage failures and actually celebrates some as demonstrating the grace of God in action. Most notable is the story of the eighth century prophet Hosea, the first of the Minor Prophets in our Bible. God directed him to take as his wife Gomer, who had been a loose woman before he wed her and turned out to be a serial adulteress within their marriage. His relentless commitment to and love for her was used in his prophecy as a graphic demonstration of God’s continuing loyalty to his unfaithful people. From Hosea’s point of view, marriage was only pain, embarrassment and failure, but from God’s point of view, it was a living parable about his infinite grace.
So as we struggle with the reality of our marriage failures, let’s realize the great potential there is for “Life After Failure,” as we yield the future of our relationships into the hands of our loving God.
– George Van Alstine