One evening in June, as Keith worked in the office, he looked out the west window and saw a red fox. Obviously a large kit, what we would call an adolescent, he sniffed around exploring the place where we have our muscadines running along a fence wire, as well as a grape arbor to its immediate east sheltering a swing Lucas made in shop class oh, so long ago. What was he after? Worms, it looked like, which he dug up and ate again and again. Later in the week we watched him run up the ditch to the east, always in the evening, several evenings in a row. Then the fun started. We caught sight of him out the office window again, but suddenly he looked up toward the woods just across the north fence. We followed his line of sight and there stood another one! It came over to meet him and they began to play, just like puppies, chasing one another around, knocking each other over and play-fighting. Then we saw another—and another—and another! Five of them running, cavorting, exploring, and having a grand old time as children will.
They continued to grow and fill out as summer passed, and we knew that soon they would all scatter—they leave the den at seven months, after being born between January and March. In our warmer climate, we assumed January was the likelier date. And yes, now we see only one, a mature adult, and as far as we know it could even be one of the original parents. But we were in for another surprise.
One evening Keith once again spied the lone fox out in the grapes. This time he was walking along them, pulling them off the vine and eating them! When he finished that level, he stood on his hind legs and proceeded to eat the next "row" and so on until he had eaten as high up as he could reach. We had wondered why this year's meager crop had suddenly disappeared. Now we know. Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vineyard…
Song of Solomon 2:15. They certainly do.
I studied the Song of Solomon under Homer Hailey so I learned what is called "the three person view." I am quite aware that most others use the two person view—which I have tried again and again, but still can't understand. My dear teacher told us all that the foxes represented Solomon trying to spoil the faithful and true love of the Shepherdess and her Shepherd boyfriend. Whoever you think the foxes are, let me just use this metaphor today: "the little foxes" are the little things that can hurt an otherwise sound marriage. I sent out some feelers to several people, asking them for the little things they think can ruin a relationship. Not adultery. Not abuse. Not addictions. Little things. The things we scarcely notice but which take a toll, day after day after day. Today, let's talk about "the little foxes" they sent me in their answers.
1. Lack of respect and common courtesy. I have heard spouses talk to one another like hired hands—hired hands who don't do the job well, in fact. They demand, they order, they scold, they gripe, they insult. I have even heard a Christian wife do this to her husband in public. The same people would never think of speaking to a neighbor that way, or a colleague, even one they didn't much like. Courtesy and kindness seem to be saved for strangers—or maybe it's for the people who pay one's salary. A spouse doesn't pay us so we don't have to be so careful, I guess. Could you please, thank you honey, what a great job, all go a long way in smoothing out the road of a sometimes rough life. Don't make it worse than it has to be.
2. No communication. Sometimes I see couples who might as well not live together for all they communicate with one another. The solution: Don't just talk to one another, but speak as friends and confidantes. If you are not friends, why did you marry in the first place? Do the things that make for friendship, and that means spending time together talking. You should have the same goals in your marriage—helping one another get to Heaven. Raising your kids so as to save their souls. Working for the Lord together. These things should give you ample time together to cement that relationship. And good communication means you are not so likely to "imagine" ulterior motives. We have certain times we set aside nearly every day, just to sit and talk. That and a cup of coffee by the fire can mend a little rift that occurred a few moments or even a day before. And be aware—little rifts can gradually become giant tears in the fabric of a marriage if they are not mended.
3. Unreasonable expectations. We grow up on fairy tales and happily ever after. Prince Charming always wears clean clothes and shaves. The Princess always has her make-up just so. No, they don't, either of them. Life is not a fairy tale. Life is hard work. Raising children is really hard work. Trials and tribulations happen. Sometimes he is sweaty and stinky from working outside—for you and the family! Sometimes she is in old sweats with her hair all over the place from cleaning house, chasing kids, doing laundry, and myriad other things. Grow up and don't expect otherwise. He won't always do what you want, especially if you don't bother to tell him what that is. Contrary to popular myth, men cannot read minds. Contrary to popular retirement myth, she does not receive great joy from standing there watching you do your thing hour after hour. Be reasonable. Be realistic. And back to number 2, talk about it.
4. Focusing on the things we don't like. It has not been that long since I wrote an entire post on this one. Can I just quote a little of it? "I am sure that you have done it too, at least once in all these years, on a day when things were not going well and your heart was aching and your mind was in a whirl, you have said to yourself, "What was I thinking?" About what, you ask? About why you married that particular person.
Some folks might say, "You weren't," thinking, that is. But the truth is that you were. You were thinking about how wonderful he was and all the sweet things he said and did when he was courting you. That's all you were thinking about—the good, the overwhelming good, that wins someone's heart.
And today, when you asked yourself that other question? Well, today you were thinking about the bad, the frustrating, irritating, aggravating, thoughtless things he does, and you were dwelling on them over and over and over…stop focusing on the bad, the things you don't like about him or her. Start remembering the good things he does for you, the sweet remembrances, the kind gestures, the handpicked wildflowers and the cup of coffee before you get out of bed. And remember, he sometimes asks himself that question too, so give him some good things to think about today."
Small things, yes? But things that can make a big difference. Many of us understand commitment. We understand that God hates divorce (Malachi 2). And our marriages are really not that bad, but they are certainly a long way from what they could be with just a little effort. Sit down today and talk about it together. We found out in a short time that those cute little foxes can destroy a vineyard. Don't let them destroy yours.
Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your life of vanity, which he has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity: for that is your portion in life, and in your labor wherein you labor under the sun (Eccl 9:9).