Myths That Can Destroy A Marriage
By John A Huffman,
1 Timothy 4:7
"Have nothing to do
with profane myths and old wives' tales. Train yourself in godliness."
It started out one
kind of an evening, and it ended up another.
Anne and I were out
for dinner. It was a pleasant time with a couple who periodically attended St. Andrew's and another couple who were hosting
the four of us in their home.
The hors d'oeuvres
were tasty and the conversation sprightly. We sat down at the dining room table, so artistically set, and continued our wide-ranged
conversation over a delicious meal.
Then, suddenly, it
happened! As we nibbled away at our cheesecake and sipped our coffee, the host looked up, with his eyes riveted first on mine
and then on Anne's and then back at mine. With emphatic yet puzzled inflection, he articulated the big question: "Why are
so many marriages of people who seem so together so successful are breaking up?" We are so shocked when friends of years,
with whom we have been together so frequently socially, who seem so happy together, suddenly announce, 'It's over!'"
I stumbled around
for some answers. After all, that's my business, isn't it?
Anne also tried to
answer. After all, she's been to seminary and is a practicing marriage and family counselor, as well as psychoanalyst.
We both gave our answers.
Frankly, some of them were very good. But ever since that evening in which the conversation suddenly shifted gears, making
it one of those never-to-be-forgotten occasions when the six of us got right down to basics, I have been searching my brain,
searching life, asking questions of others, and asking questions of God. Through prayer and through the searching of Scriptures,
I have endeavored to figure out just why so many marriages of people who seem so together and so successful are breaking up.
I believe that I have
come across some answers and also some solutions. These are not final answers; nor are they final solutions. Relationships
do not lend themselves easily to once-and-for-all, true statements that guarantee happiness and wholeness. At least I am able
to share some insights to challenge you and me to further reflection.
I am convinced that
many marriages break up because they are built on mythical foundations.
What do I mean? There
are myths, generally accepted statements or propositional foundations for life that are accepted by some of us that can gradually
work away on our inner psyche, ultimately causing us marital disruption.
The Bible is God's
Word to you and me. It doesn't tell us everything about God. It doesn't tell us everything about ourselves. It doesn't tell
us everything about each other. But the Bible does tell us everything we need to know about how to get along with God, with
ourselves and with each other. The Bible is a textbook of reality therapy. It is not a compilation of naive idealisms that
spiritualize life, painting fantasies that do not square with reality.
The Bible is an earthy
book. It has a lot to say about domestic ugliness, marital violence, alcoholism, drug addiction, adultery, dishonesty, ambition,
exploitation, manipulation, arrogance and pride. These are only a few of the themes spoken to with great specificity and elaborate
Not only is ideal
marriage described, so is divorce. It notes allowances made for divorce under certain extreme circumstances. However, Jesus
reinforces God's intention for marriage to be a vehicle that enhances the welfare and happiness of humankind. He notes the
painful disruption that comes emotionally, physically and spiritually when that intentionality gets ripped apart by either
a marriage lived out in a contentious disharmony or one that ends in divorce.
My basic thesis for
today does not come from a biblical text dealing specifically with marriage. It is actually a word of advice from the Apostle
Paul to his young friend, Timothy, who was pastoring the church Paul founded in Ephesus. We looked in detail, a few months
ago, at those two letters. Paul noted in his travels through the Jewish, Greek and Roman world that all people have a weird
vulnerability to untruth. We humans are easily deceived by quack remedies and vogue ideologies that come and go at a fairly
rapid pace. He urges Timothy to concentrate on the truth that has been revealed to him through the Holy Spirit. He writes:
If you put these instructions before the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus,
nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with profane myths
and old wives' tales. Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in
every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:6-8)
Ever since that dinner
conversation, as I have been reflecting on this whole matter of marital disharmony and divorce, these words have kept throbbing
in my heart and mind: "Have nothing to do with profane myths and old wives' tales. Train yourself in godliness.”
The whole attitude
of the Apostle Paul, as he shares his concerns with Timothy, is one of nurturing, one of caring, one of counsel, one of advice.
It was a gentle, humble word. He wants Timothy to process his instructions in a way that will help him deal healthfully with
the believers at Ephesus. He wants him to exhort those for whom he bears pastoral responsibility in a gentle, humble, counseling
mode. It is not to be an authoritarian expression that puts people down.
How presumptuous it
would be of me to stand in the pulpit and pretend personal exemption from the stresses and strains of my own marriage. I dare
not bully you into truth. Instead, I must admit that I am a person just as much in process as are you. I must be fed from
the Scriptures under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so as to be able to share with you the discoveries that I am making.
What I say to you today, within days of my 65th birthday, hopefully has a depth to it that it would not have had forty years
ago, or even twenty years ago. What I do have is a responsibility that is clear and urge you to apply that truth to what may
not be as clear.
Paul urges Timothy
to avoid "profane myths and old wives' tales." The NIV translates this as "godless and silly myths." He is warning them to
remain at the center of the faith. How easy it is to be indoctrinated by a society that does not take seriously the truths
of God's Word and wake up discovering that something about us is being destroyed by these godless and silly myths. Instead,
we are called to train ourselves in godliness.
I would like to identify
several profane myths and old wives' tales that can literally destroy marital harmony and actually break up your marriage.
Myth #1 is the Perfect-Person myth