Sometimes I find myself deeply involved in an on-line search and totally forget how I got started. So, I have no idea why I was reading a Wikipedia article on comedienne Fanny Brice, whose voice I listened to on the radio as Baby Snooks, back in the 1940s. She was already a fascinating public figure when she married her third husband. Here’s how the Wikipedia article puts it:

Brice married songwriter and stage producer Billy Rose in 1929 and appeared in his revue Crazy Quilt, among others. Their marriage failed, with Brice suing Rose for divorce in 1938.

The phrase that jumped up and slapped me in the face was “their marriage failed.” How can the article’s author say that? He might say, “their marriage ended,” or “their marriage petered out.” But “failed”? He had just written about their collaboration in show productions, and there was enough satisfaction in their nine years together to provide the subject matter for the 1975 film Funny Lady, in which Barbara Streisand plays the part of Fanny Brice.

From a little more research, I learned that Fanny Brice’s first marriage was to a high school sweetheart, and this infatuation faded in a year or so. Her second marriage was to a man who spent half of their years together in prison, convicted of multiple white-collar crimes. When he got out, he disappeared and never supported their children. She never again married after the divorce from Rose. For his part, Billy Rose married the woman who helped break up his marriage to Brice, but that quickly ended when she found someone else. Later, he married three more times, but none of these lasted more than three years.

I came to the conclusion that the nine years Fanny and Billy spent as husband and wife were probably the best marriage either of them would ever experience, and yet the article’s author writes “their marriage failed.”

In the movie Hollywood Ending, two people who were formerly married analyze things in retrospect:

She (the Tia Leoni character) – “Our marriage wasn’t going anywhere.”

He (the Woody Allen character) – “Where do you want it to go? Where do marriages go? After a while, they just lay there. That’s the thing about marriages.”

This is certainly too cynical, but we do tend to put a great deal of pressure on our marriages by raising unrealistic expectations that are bound to be disappointed. Sometimes our marriages are exciting, but sometimes they just seem to lay there. But we as individuals are still feeling and thinking and growing and emerging into the person God wants us to be.

Many of you in our ABC family have experienced the crumbling of a marriage. Would you say the marriage failed? You may have children who were born to that marriage; does that seem like failure? You can probably think of ways in which you grew as a person during that marriage. If you look hard enough among the scars of the breakup, you will also see some stars that emerged in your personality and character.

Don’t close your mind to the good things that happened in that relationship just because it’s over. Don’t think of it as disloyal to your current partner to remember that you once loved a former partner. In discounting the earlier relationship, you may be putting down part of who you are.

If you’d like to talk over some unresolved thoughts or feelings about your past or current marriages, please talk to one of ABC’s pastors.

— Pastor George Van Alstine