It’s been said that there’s nothing better than a good marriage, and nothing worse than a bad one. While a bit extreme, there is some truth in the statement. Most marriages, however are a mixture of good and bad moments. When we work through the bad moments correctly, we experience more of the joys that a good marriage can offer.
I do a fair amount of marriage counseling. Most couples come in focusing on the negative behaviors of their spouse and convey the belief that everything would be great if the spouse would change. Each person is less aware of their own contribution to the conflict. Both are left with the feeling that their needs are not being met.
I often share a story that my pastor used years ago in a sermon. I don’t know the original source, but it’s a story worth sharing.
There was a man who died and went to heaven. Saint Peter met him at the pearly gates and told him that he was a strange. He told the man that he was exactly on the borderline of going to heaven or hell. He said that they had decided to show him both and let him decide where he wanted to spend eternity. The man said that sounded fair and they proceeded to each.
Saint Peter took him to a door and said that this was hell. He opened the door and the man immediately saw a huge banquet room as far as the eyes could see. In this room there were rows of banquet tables as far as the eyes could see, and on these tables was a wonderful banquet, all the great foods you could imagine. The tables had white tablecloths, silver and china. It was a true banquet, but the people sitting on both sides of the tables were skin and bone, and just looking longingly at the food.
The man said the Saint Peter, “They look miserable. Why aren’t they eating? The food is right in front of them.”
Saint Peter said, “Look at their arms.”
The man looked more closely at their arms and saw that one arm had been replaced at the elbow with a three-foot-long spoon, and the other arm had been replaced at the elbow with a three-foot-long fork. The man looked confused for a moment, but then exclaimed, “They can’t get it to their mouth. So, they have to sit here for eternity looking at the food, but unable to eat it.”
Saint Peter said, “That’s right, now I’ll show you heaven.”
He took the man to another door and said, “Now I’ll show you heaven.”
He opened the door and the man immediately saw a huge banquet room just like the first. In the room were long rows of banquet tables just like the first, and on these tables was a true banquet, just like the first. But, the people sitting at the tables were obviously well fed and happy. They were talking, singing and having a good time.
The man said to Saint Peter, “These people look a lot happier. I choose heaven.”
Saint Peter replied, “Okay, but look at their arms.”
The man looked more closely and saw that one arm had been replaced at the elbow with a three-foot-long spoon, and the other with a three-foot-long fork. The man looked confused and said, “I don’t understand.”
Saint Peter said, “Well, you see, in heaven, they feed each other.”
A marriage can feel like a marriage made in heaven or a marriage made in hell, depending on whether the people learn to feed each other, or worry about the fact that they are not getting fed.
Question: Have you seen the benefits of “feeding each other” in your marriage, and how did it feel?