I admit that for a while I was hooked on certain reality TV shows, but I've pulled the plug on several as of late, keeping my viewing list a lot shorter. (However, I've kept Deadliest Catch on the list because I can't get enough of men battling the Bering Sea - it's quite thrilling!) Reality TV has destroyed its share of relationships, so I have been hesitant to spend time becoming emotionally involved with the real-life people who inhabit it.
Sadly, its most recent casualty seems to be Jon and Kate Gosselin. The once-happy couple that has endured the challenges of multiple births have now turned on one another, and Monday night's episode, the fifth-season premiere, revealed the pain that pride, anger, blame-shifting, and resentment bring to a marriage.
Watching as a counselor, I was squirming in my seat. The problems they were describing (in separate interviews) were actually quite common and normal in most marriages. I've heard many people express their anger and sadness about feeling underappreciated, having to put dreams on hold, and enduring their spouse saying and doing hurtful things. The biggest test will be how the Gosselins, who are professing Christians, choose to deal with these universal marital issues. If Monday's episode was any evidence of how they are proceeding, things do not look good.
Most disturbing was the eerie silence in the midst of their anger-filled monologues: there was no counselor to intervene. Self-justifying, self-righteous, bitter statements were left hanging in the air unchallenged and unquestioned, with no outside perspective. Unless they have an intervening wisdom, they are headed for destruction.
God's perspective on life, relationships, and marriage is not intuitive. In fact, it runs counter to our sinful nature, which is our default operating mode. When we manage our relationships on human reasoning, we inevitably end up "biting and devouring each other," and destroying each other Gal. 5:15. Let's be honest: Women, in Kate's situation, how many of us would have chosen a submissive spirit as our primary mode of relating to our husband? Men, in Jon's shoes, would you be waking up daily wondering how you can love your wife as much as you love your own flesh? Probably not. Nor would we desire to display kindness, compassion, and forgiveness, getting rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger. Our fleshly thinking is actually stubborn, selfish, unkind, merciless, and vengeful. With no one to tell us otherwise, we are headed down a path of destruction in our relationships.
So what's the answer to these very familiar marital disputes? The intervening grace of God's Word and his redemptive work in our lives. Usually this is only found within the contexts of relationships with other believers who have access to our hearts to help us see where God's truth intersects with our daily lives. I'm only guessing here, but it seems that Jon and Kate's marriage is a reflection of where each is spiritually. Could it be that the pressures and stresses of fame and attention have pulled them away from their greatest love: Christ? Perhaps they have dropped church out of their busy schedules, and with that, a group of other Christians who knows them, is aware of their struggles, and helps to keep them accountable? Or has confessing to the TV camera replaced the biblical wisdom of "confess[ing] your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed" (James 5:16)?
Can Jon and Kate Gosselin's marriage be saved? Absolutely. But not on human terms, not with human wisdom, not with a camera man playing counselor. Only Christ can change our hearts so radically that we are able to die to our wants, our needs, our desires, and live for something greater than ourselves.
Lynn Roush is a counselor at The Crossing Church, an Evangelical Presbyterian congregation in Columbia, Missouri. She received her master's degree in counseling psychology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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