Remember some years ago when the space shuttle Discovery was grounded, not by technical difficulties or lack of government funding, but by woodpeckers? Yellow-shafted flicker woodpeckers found the insulating foam on the shuttle’s external fuel tank irresistible material for pecking. The foam is critical to the shuttle’s performance. Without it, ice forms on the tank when it’s filled with the super-cold fuel, ice that can break free during liftoff and damage the giant spacecraft. The shuttle was grounded until the damage was repaired. Of all the things that could have gone wrong to destroy the mission, I’ll bet they never thought of
Marriages are frequently damaged not by big things—infidelity or abuse or abandonment—but by the little things. What do I consider the little things? Those things that happen between us (or fail to happen) that we don’t even notice: words we used to say that always conveyed our love for one another, a silent smile of reassurance, a squeeze or hug that said “I care.” It’s amazing how those little things disappear the longer we live together. It’s also amazing the distance they begin to put between us, if not geographically, at least emotionally. The engineers might have taken the attitude “Well, so what if there are a few holes in the spacecraft. It’ll still fly!” But they have also learned that such thinking could well produce a massive fatal mistake. Attention to the little things is what keeps the program going. It is also like that in our marriage. I don’t doubt that those couples who find their marriages less than satisfying still love each other. But they have forgotten the need to express it in ways that their mates can understand.
When the Apostle Paul was describing Christian marriage in Ephesians 5, he used two words to describe the responsibility of marital love: “nurture” and “cherish.” Both of these words require attention to detail. They require that each partner become a “student” of his mate, that he learn what that other person requires to grow, to blossom, to be fulfilled and that he or she then must set about to supply those requirements. Unfortunately, few of us want to put that much energy into building a marriage. But like the space missions we must be aware that there is just too much at stake to ignore the woodpeckers. Unless we want to see everything crash and burn, we’d better pay attention to the details.
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship