A fairy tale ending is not guaranteed

By MICHAEL J. BROOKS / Guest Columnist

“And they lived happily ever after.” This oft-repeated line is burnished in our memories from childhood stories we heard so long ago. But they’re called “fairy-tales” since this is a fairy-tale descriptor for life. Life is filled with happy moments, to be sure, such as remembering our parents or grandparents reading these stories to us. But life is also filled with loss. No one lives happily all the time for all time.

Perhaps nowhere is this more pronounced than in marriage. Couples enter marriage with great expectations for a relationship of joy and fulfillment. But almost half of those marriages won’t last beyond 10 years. What happened? Someone described it as when moonlight and roses become daylight and diapers!

I’m convinced there are many reasons why marriages fail. One is selfishness. Some believe the spouse’s role is to please them in every way, whereas the biblical view is to outdo one another in unselfish service (Ephesians 5:21).

Another reason, I think, is lack of preparation. This was true in my case. I asked the officiating minister when he wanted to talk with us about marriage, and he replied, “What do you want to talk about?” That was the extent of our pre-marital counseling. Because I was already committed to ministry, I think perhaps he thought I knew all about marriage. I appreciate the fact that people think ministers are smart, but most of us have track records that prove otherwise!

Some pastors won’t perform marriages for those who’ve been divorced, or for those who aren’t Christians. Though I respect this, my practice has been to try to be a source of encouragement and to make space for future ministry to couples whom I marry.

And I’ve made it a practice to schedule time to talk with couples before marriage about several things.

An instrument I’ve found effective is a questionnaire that probes some 30 areas as a discussion starter for couples before they’re surprised with these issues after marriage. We also talk about the value of Christian faith and sharing church life together.

Part of the encouragement I offer privately to couples is to be a source of counsel in conflict, if needed, or to recommend a professional, if needed.

I’m reminded of a friend who said a couple in crisis for whom he recommended a professional in the area recoiled when they heard the man had a counseling fee. My friend said, “If you had cancer, could you afford treatment?” He was gently reminding them that their relationship was worth the investment of a few dollars should professional help be needed.

Marriages do better when both sets of eyes are open and a fairy tale ending is not expected.

Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church’s website is Siluriabaptist.com.