Lutheran Church Extension Fund

Relational failure is sneaky, too.

Monthly theme: Intentionality

Reading time: two minutes

I started with this last week. I’ll say it again.

Most failure is “sneaky failure.”

I can’t image that Eli, the priest planned for his sons to be scoundrels. David certainly didn’t wake up one day and wonder whose home and marriage he could destroy. Jacob didn’t intentionally live cut off from his brother for decades.

It just happened. Sneaky.

Relationships need intentional, deliberate, Christ-filled care.

Without the indwelling of the Spirit and the grace of Christ, we’re not good at that.

I often agonized over couples in pre-marital counseling when it became clear to me that their plan for a healthy marriage was to ride the emotion of young love wherever it would take them. They were often immature, naive, and reliant more on their passion for each other than on the grace of God.

I would ask them to explain why they thought marriage was a good idea.

Along the way I’d find opportunities to point out that guys are jerks and women are impossible to live with.

(Caring pastors begin by defining reality, you know!)

Sometimes when I asked to hear about the fights they had, I’d hear, “Oh, we don’t really argue that much!” I suggested they come back after a couple of big ones.

What a treasure we have in the gift of God’s Law, our Lord’s way of helping us see reality. We’re all desperately and daily in need of forgiveness. Followers of Jesus understand that relationships at home, in the Church, with friends and with co-workers, are always jeopardized by our sinfulness.

And church work families endure strain on relationships that many others don’t.

We’re saddled with unrealistic vocational expectations that require long hours away from the family. The conflicting loyalties of church and home are difficult to manage well.

There is internal and external pressure to present a highly edited version of our marriages and family lives to the congregation and community. That takes its toll.

Loneliness can drive us to inappropriate behavior. And broken relationships.

Sneaky. We don’t plan for it. It sneaks up on us. God’s Law shows our failure.

So we run to the cross.

What a joy it was for this pastor to watch the Spirit at work in young couples preparing for marriage as they discovered the gifts God gave for marital blessedness. The Law points out our need. The Gospel brings hope for loving, caring, gracious lives together under the cross.

I sometimes wondered if we should change “I do” to “Yes, with the help of God!”

An intentional wellness plan for relationships begins with being quick to confess. “How did I contribute to the strain we’re feeling?” Intentionality in marriage, family, friendship and Church means learning to say, “I’m sorry,” or better yet, “I was wrong.”

And healthy relationships are always Christ-dependent.

We love as we’ve been loved. We’re “kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest.

Thanks for reading.