One day Karen and I were at one of our MarriageToday events when I was approached by a couple. The woman stood in front of her husband and introduced herself. Her husband smiled from behind his wife as he reached around her and timidly shook my hand. As I met them, she said, “Well, I really haven’t watched your TV show a lot, but it saved my marriage.” “In fact” she said, “it was just one story you told on your program one day that saved our marriage. I was just about to leave my husband when I was flipping through the channels and heard you tell the story about….”
She then went on to remind me of the story I had told that she said caused her to see her own errors and change. According to her, their marriage was instantly transformed and had been different ever since. So what was the story?
It was a story I had heard years ago about the difference between heaven and hell. I really liked it and had used it for years. It isn’t a biblically accurate story, but that’s not the point. It is accurate related to human behavior and how our attitudes affect our happiness in life and in marriage. Here it is.
In heaven and in hell there is a banquet table where people are seated and before them is a great feast. A strange dilemma both in heaven and in hell is the way they must eat. In both places every person has eating utensils strapped to their hands that they cannot take off. Also, the utensils are too long for them to feed themselves. There is no way they could scoop food and return it to their own mouths.
In heaven, the people find the solution easily. With joy, they just feed each other and have a great time of fellowship as they serve one another and enjoy the feast that heaven offers. Hell is much different. The people in hell are so selfish that they would rather starve to death than help someone else. Therefore, even though they have the same food available, they never experience it because they refuse to serve each other.
Like I said before, it isn’t an accurate account of what the Bible says and most likely it will never happen. It is however, a very accurate picture of the difference between good and bad marriages. The primary difference in many cases between success or failure in marriage is simply whether you are motivated by selfishness or a servant attitude.
Just like in the story, we can’t meet our own needs. We are helpless to give ourselves the things that only our spouse can give.
Just like in the story, we can’t meet our own needs. We are helpless to give ourselves the things that only our spouse can give. Also, just like in the story, a banquet is set before us in marriage. Both of us bring to the marriage amazing giftings, abilities and traits that can nourish and bless our spouses. However, they can only be experienced if we focus on each other and are willing to serve and give.
I remember back to our marriage in the “hell” days when I was too selfish to meet Karen’s needs or focus on her. We lived in an emotional wilderness where both of us were miserable. I resented Karen for not meeting my needs and she felt the same way about me. Karen was better than me though, because she was the first one willing to feed me even if I wouldn’t feed her.
I also remember when our season in hell ended and the “heaven” years began approximately thirty years ago. I saw the light and repented for my selfishness. Since then Karen and I have been committed to serving each other and meeting each others needs. Our marriage has been blessed ever since and has grown in passion and intimacy.
As the lady told me the story of how her marriage had been saved by the story I told on our TV program, she finished by saying, “I just can’t believe how selfish I have been. I was convinced all of my problems were caused by my husband. I was ready to divorce him and call my lawyer when I saw your program. But immediately when I heard your story about heaven and hell the Lord spoke to my heart and convicted me of my selfish attitude. Since that day I have changed and made the commitment to serve my husband. Our marriage has been resurrected and we are so happy,” she said as her husband smiled at me.
I like the story of heaven and hell. It’s a good reminder to all of us not to be selfish. Just remember, your marriage is full of every blessing you can ever hope for, but it can only be released as you are willing to serve your spouse.