One night when I was a teenager, my mom, sister, and I were driving down the main highway where we lived, when we starting seeing the flashing red lights of fire trucks. As we slowed down approaching the scene we could see a house was on fire. We then pulled off the road and tried to make sense out of what we were seeing. Because the puzzling thing was, the fire department on the scene was doing nothing to put out the fire. It didn’t look like a control burn because we could see someone begging the firemen to do something. So we got out of the car and moved in closer and began asking questions. We soon learned the fire department was just watching because they were out of their jurisdiction. They were from the near by county, a few miles down the road. They had arrived on the scene first, but they were not allowed to do anything until the local department arrived. Here they were fully equipped, capable, and ready to put out the fire. But instead, they had to stand there and watch the home burn until the other firemen arrived. By the time the local units arrived it was too late. The home was too far gone.
I’m often reminded of this story as we work to help save marriages. Just like the firemen that had to watch the home burn, too many times we have had to stand by and watch someone’s marriage fail. We have been in position to help with open arms. We have taken the initiative to reach out to hurting couples. We have experience and understanding on how to overcome difficult marriage issues. And God has given us the grace to work in an arena where many ministers try to avoid. Yet we still find ourselves in the agonizing position of simply watching as couples choose to give up or they continue with destructive behavior that will eventually bring the marriage down.
Every marriage is different with unique dynamics and what we have experienced may not match what others are going through. And marriage is a private matter between a man and woman and very often couples are reluctant to reach out for, or even receive help. But there are times when marriages are failing simply because couples don’t always know who or where they can go to for help. Then there are times when couples are fighting so hard over whose fault it is they are not even aware of the danger they are in until it has gone so far they feel there is no hope.
So I write this blog post for two reasons. First, for anyone who is aware that someone around you is having marriage problems, DO SOMETHING. I’m not saying stick your nose into other people’s business. Nor am I saying become somebody’s marriage counselor. But you can get involved by letting them know that there are resources available. You can put a book in their hands. You can send them to a marriage class. Let them know about a local pastor or ministry that helps with marriages. Tell them about a marriage conference or retreat. Refer them to web sites such as www.focusonthefamily.com, www.familylife.com, or one of the great marriage blogs at www.upliftingmarriage.com. Whatever you do, just don’t stand by and watch someone’s home burn to the ground.
Second reason I write this is for anyone who is in a difficult place in your marriage. Don’t be too embarrassed to ask for help. There are people who have been where you are and like us, they have given their lives to help other marriages. If you don’t know where to turn, start in your local church or community. Then go to the web sites I have mentioned above. There is help out there and you just have to be persistent at reaching out for it. Also don’t turn to people who are not properly equipped and capable of helping. Your marriage is too important to just listen to the advice of friends or family with good intentions. Finally, don’t over look your problems and think it will somehow work itself out when you might be smelling the smoke of something more serious. The last thing you want is to look back at what used to be your marriage and wonder why did I just stand there and watch it burn to the ground.
Just like that night when I was a teenager, it is a sad scene when families are standing by watching their home burn down to the ground. Their hard work, their memories, their hopes for the future, and their place of belonging and security all gone in one cruel event. And even more tragic is the scene of a marriage and their family destroyed with no hope of rebuilding simply because no one knew how to prevent the fire or how to put it out once it started. In today’s age of information there is no reason for couples to not get the help they need to build a life long marriage.