Marriage in the Modern World
A boy asked his father, “Dad, if three frogs were sitting on a limb that hung over a pool, and one frog decided to jump off into the pool, how many frogs would be left on the limb?” The dad replied, “Two.” “No,” the son told him. “There are three frogs and one decides to jump, how many are left?” The dad said, “Oh, I get it, if one decides to jump, the others would too. So there are none left.” The boy said, “No dad, the answer is three. The frog only DECIDED to jump.”
Does that sound like last year’s New Year’s resolution?
It’s much like the guy who was at a party not long after New Year’s: he asked his friend for a cigarette, to which the friend asked, “I thought you made a New Year’s resolution to quit smoking?” The young man answered, “I’m in the process of quitting. Right now, I am in the middle of phase one.” “What’s phase one?” his friend asked. The young man replied,“I’ve quit buying.” Like the soon-to-be-former-smoker, many of us have hit the second or third week of the new year and are still in phase one.
I got an early start on one of my New Year’s resolutions this past Christmas when I didn’t just decide to jump, but actually “jumped” head first into some culture. Our family (well, the ones that were able to be with us; we’re still struggling with the learning curve of sharing our married children with their spouses’ families during holidays) went to see a movie: the classic Les Miserables. You have no idea how much of a quantum leap this was for me. Keep in mind that I cut my cultural teeth on Mel Brooks’ works—you know, those cinematic masterpieces like “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein.” Once I got past the very different aspect of everyone, and I mean everyone, singing his or her lines, I actually found myself being drawn into the story. Don’t worry, this isn’t about critiquing a literary classic and Broadway hit brought to the “big screen.” This is about the difference between deciding to jump and actually jumping this year.
How many of us have hit the second or third week of our New Year’s resolution and are still in ‘phase one’?
There are numerous reasons given for why New Year’s resolutions are broken, but I’ll bet one excuse you’ve never heard is entropy. That’s right, I said ‘entropy’. (See? My new commitment to cultural pursuits must already be working—I’m expanding my vocabulary!)
I know what you’re thinking!….what, pray tell, is entropy? If you’ve bought a new car and driven it off the lot, you’ve experienced entropy. You lose several thousand dollars as soon as it goes off the lot, because things have a way of deteriorating on their own. If you’ve ever been sitting in a room of people, doing nothing, and someone finally speaks up and says, “Hey, why don’t we…” before throwing out an idea that would actually require everyone to get up from their comfy seats and do something only to witness everyone an hour later still lounging in their comfortable spots while trying to decide whether or not to do something, you’ve experienced entropy.
Everything, when left on its own—when not given attention and energy—has a tendency to deteriorate. That’s the way it works in life. When you become apathetic or complacent or settle for the path of least resistance in some area of your life, entropy sets in. Dreams die and hopes fade and resolutions are broken. Then a terrible thing happens—actually, two terrible things happen: first, you accept defeat more easily; second, and even more damaging, you learn you can live with mediocrity. It’s not a great life, but I can tolerate it. And nowhere is entropy more damaging than in the marriage relationship.
Entropy is a great enemy of the human spirit, so the writers of the Book of Proverbs have a lot to say about it. One thing they say is that the wise person is always on the lookout for early signs that entropy is setting in. Proverbs 27:23-24 shows us the picture of someone who has livestock and how they need to monitor its condition. Though the words speak of livestock, they are true in any area of life: “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.” Every day you have to be on the lookout for entropy. That things might have been okay yesterday doesn’t mean they stay okay forever. Put any important area of your life on autopilot, and risk entropy that is both subtle and destructive.
Research has pinpointed the following signs as evidence that entropy is advancing in one’s life:
Another one of my resolutions for 2013 is to make sure I do all I can to prevent entropy in my life: in my relationship with God, in my family, in my marriage, and in the marriages of those whom God has given me the privilege to shepherd. I’m sure when Marriage Encounter was being developed, entropy was not a specific target, but there’s no question it not only confronts it but prevents it as well. If you, like so many others, have hit “phase one” of your New Year’s resolution or are standing on that limb “deciding” to jump, don’t let entropy set in. Jump!
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