Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sweet Wine vs. Sour Grapes

It starts out with wine and roses, a luscious wedding cake, gorgeous beaded dress and the promise of endless joy-filled tomorrows.

But then something mysterious happens. Somewhere along the winding pathway of unity during the next few years, erosion creates a few potholes, roadblocks, and maybe even a detour or two.

The disillusioned bride and groom are left standing on the side of the road asking, "What happened?"

In all honesty, it happened to me. And it'll happen to you, too.

But we don't have to abandon our wrecked cars and hitchhike. Nope. We can change the flat tires, fill 'er up with brand new gasoline and climb back in to continue our life-long journey to happily ever after. How? Read on ...

I've been reading through 1 and 2 Samuel in different translations (you should try it - adds fresh perspective to passages you've read a thousand times) and found myself wondering what happened to tarnish Michel's love for David. Michel had been secretly in love with David, her father the king's political rival (1 Samuel 18: 20) and was used as a pawn by dear old dad to coerce David into avenging the king's enemies. Saul was hoping David would be killed in battle, but after David slew a hundred Philistines to win Michel's hand, Saul was forced to give Michel to David in marriage. (Saul had already promised his older daughter to David and reneged - 1 Sam 18:19). 

At first, Michel loved David passionately - enough to deceive her father (whose nasty temper could have easily resulted in her own death) and help David in a daring midnight escape (1 Sam 19: 11-17).

But then later, in 2 Sam 6:16-21, we see that Michel's love had turned into contempt for her husband. She criticized him openly and ridiculed him for his celebratory behavior before the Lord. The Bible doesn't say specifically, but my guess is that their relationship took a sharp downward spiral at that point.

What went wrong? What made Michel's mighty, life-on-the-line, heart-bursting affection morph into disdain and contempt?

What soured the grapes of her marriage?

A little research reveals some very telling events that probably contributed heavily. During the years after Michel risked everything to help with David's daring escape from Saul, her jerk of a father turned around and married her off to another man in David's absence. David, too, took at least two other wives while he was constantly running and hiding from Saul.

Time passed. Lots happened before David finally was crowned king of Israel and Michel was able to return to his household. Barren (a source of shame in that culture) while David's other wives spit out babies like watermelon seeds, Michel became bitter and haughty in spirit. She and David had little quality time together and she allowed her critical tongue to fan the flames of discontent. Michel was unable to accept her circumstances and allowed ungratefulness to control her thinking processes, attitudes, and behavior.

I know she's usually skipped over in Bible studies and generally overlooked as a woman of far-reaching consequence in the Bible, but I really feel for Michel. I identify with her in a lot of ways. I think God included her story because there are important things we can learn from her. She didn't ask for all the lousy things that happened to her, but she did have control over her future by the way she responded to the circumstances in which she found herself.

Just like us. Today. 

So what are the elements that contributed to Michel and David's relationship erosion?

1. Separation - physical and emotional
2. Allowing situations over which you have no control to make you bitter
3. A runaway, critical tongue
4. Focusing on what you don't have rather than being grateful for what you do


In retrospect, these are all elements that I, too, have been guilty of allowing to creep into my marriage during our difficult patches. The times when our marital vehicle ran off the road or overheated.

And I feel sure that the key to our marriage still being on the road after 33 years is found in #4 above. It can be nutshelled into one word: gratitude. If we seek a spirit of gratitude, and make it a priority to renew our grateful attitudes daily, everything else in #1-3 will become a non-issue.

Those potholes of emotional distance, bitterness, and destructive criticism will be paved over with humbleness, patience, and generosity of spirit. And our marital Edsel won't break down nearly so often. Strangely enough, we won't want to ditch the old boring model and upgrade anymore. We might put forth a little elbow grease and polish it up. We'll actually begin to respect and admire it just like when it was new and shiny.

It's hard to stab a man when you're holding his hand.  



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