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Marriage:  Spice of Life?  Or Leftover Spam?

Johnny Carson was serious about humor. He proved he knew how to tell a joke, and for thirty years he reigned as king of late night comedy as host of NBC's The Tonight Show. Sadly, he was never as successful at the more serious stuff of building an enduring marriage with one woman. Carson married and divorced three times before marrying a fourth and final time in 1987. This fourth marriage, to Alexis Maas, was his most enduring one (from June 20, 1987 until he died at 79 years old in 2005). Carson often joked about marriage. But his multiple marriages make us wonder if the jokes masked more serious feelings. Carson said, "If variety is the spice of life, marriage is the big can of leftover Spam." Say what?! Doesn't sound very appetizing, does it? Bland. Boring. Unexciting. Not very tasty. Same old, same old. Predictable. Arid before long, not only not very appetizing, but just plain old hard to stomach. Carson's statement reminds me of hard-toforget words about marriage by another world-class entertainer, the late Minnie Pearl. With home-spun wit she described marriage this way: "Gettin' married's like gettin' into a tub of hot water. After awhile it ain't so hot."

But wait a minute. Millions of happily married couples have found that marriage is the spice of their lives. Through love and respect and forgiveness and patience, they keep a steady stream of hot water flowing into the marriage tub. But why do some marriages make it over the long haul while others run out of gas? Why are some couples happy and fulfilled and others frustrated and miserable? Why do some enjoy marriage and others endure it? Why does marriage lead to delight for some and divorce for others? What are the keys that keep the spice in marriage and prevent it from turning into leftover Spam? I know that sometimes the issues involved in a dying marriage are complex and serious, and I don't mean to oversimplify. But ultimately, marriage failure is a human failure. As Harry Fosdick said, "It is not marriage that fails. It is people that fail." Preacher Eddie Sanders put it this way, "Inadequate people make inadequate partners." Ephesians 5:22-33 lays out a strategy that will keep the spice in marriage over the long haul. That passage says things like, 'Wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord (vs 22)...Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it (vs 25) ....husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies (vs 28a)....For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh" (vs 29-31). . Jet each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband" (vs 33). It is not always easy for husbands and wives to live the way described in this passage — but those willing to flesh out these teachings will prove to be adequate as people and marriage partners! There are stretches on the highway to a happy and lasting marriage where we do more giving than receiving, experience more hurt than happiness, and feel more frustrated than fulfilled. Be all that as it may, the unalterable fact is enduring marriages are based on commitment, not convenience or complacency. A good marriage is not easy but neither is it impossible. God wants us to take our marriage vows seriously, even through those times when marriage may seem more like Spam than spice. Will you think about it?

Dan Gulley,
Smithville church of Christ