Summary: Successful marriages are built on: 1. Self-giving, rather than self-fulfillment. 2. Building each other up, rather than tearing each other down. 3. Continual growth, rather than taking the relationship for granted.

Henry David Thoreau, the writer and naturalist, once said, “Most men lead quiet lives of desperation.” If you believe television, most housewives do as well. In the show, Desperate Housewives, Susan Mayer, Lynette Scavo , Bree Van De Kamp, Gabrielle Solis and Edie Britt lead us through a dizzying series of events which explain why they are so desperate. Newsweek (“Sex and the Suburbs,” November 29, 2004) summed up the characters this way: “Susan is a divorced children’s book author and major klutz. . . . Lynette gave up her career to become the mother of four and is so overwhelmed she’s become addicted to their ADD medicine. Bree is the local Martha Stewart, a woman who brings homemade potpourri to the marriage counselor even though it’s her perfectionism that’s driving her husband away. Gabrielle is nouveau riche, miserable and having an affair with the teenage [boy] who cuts her lawn. But don’t confuse her with Edie, she’s just the neighborhood slut.” It is no wonder they are desperate. Their adulteries, addictions, dysfunctions, lies and inanities are not kept under wraps any more than they are. One of the ironies that Newsweek points out is that one of the homes used on the set is originally from the old Leave it to Beaver show, and was the home of Ward and June Cleaver. Now there is contrast for you.

Wisteria Lane is an appropriate name for the street on which the housewives live. Wisteria is a vine. It can be beautiful with its cascading blossoms. The twisting vine, known for its ability to climb high, can also be very destructive if not kept under control. It can actually tear down brick walls or kill an oak tree, and at the same time produce beautiful blossoms with a sweet fragrance. Like the beautiful people who live on Wisteria Lane, you would not expect something so beautiful could be so destructive. It’s all about suburban motherhood in the post-modern, post-feminist age. There is a great deal of sickness and evil which exists behind the masks of these pretend-perfect people who are in desperate pain. No one on the program is really happy or satisfied with life, in spite of their affluence. You could say they live on Hysteria Lane. One thing you have to ask is, “How did they get so messed up?”

The reason their lives are so awful is that they are based on all the wrong things: materialism, self-fulfillment, pleasure seeking and pretense. Even their occasional association with the church is formal and all about making the right impression. Their lives are desperate and their marriages dysfunctional for at least three reasons, and the first is that they do not realize that marriage is built on: Self-giving, rather than self-fulfillment. So many people seek out a relationship for what it can do for them. In our culture, even sex has lost its context of relationship. It has become a mechanistic performance, rather than a mutual exchange of love and pleasuring between two people who respect each other and want to put the other first. It is the divorce between sex and relationship that causes us to toss around terms like “hooking up,” and “friends with benefits.” Our culture has lost the concept of sacrifice and putting others first.

I love this passage from 1 Corinthians 13 in the Living Bible: “Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). The only problem with that is that it doesn’t make for marketable TV. Can you imagine an evening soap opera with characters who live on Corinthian Lane and whose lives and stories were modeled after these verses?

The way of Christ is opposite the way of the world. It was Jesus himself who said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. . . just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28). Jesus was the model for the way of life he asks us to live. Marriage is not a place where we expect a person to fulfill all that we find missing in life. Marriage is not where we get a person to serve us and meet our needs. Marriage is not where we look for what we can get, but a place where we look for what we can give. The one who wants to lead must be the one who learns to serve.

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