June 19, 2015
The 1939 play “The Little Foxes” by Lillian Hellman was based on scripture from Song of Solomon 2:15. The foundation of the play can be summed up this way: many times the collection of small missteps ultimately gets us in trouble. Even marriages with no major problems get into trouble because of an accumulation of little things. The Bible refers to these issues as the little foxes that ruin the vineyard.
You see, we are usually much better at crisis intervention than we are at regular maintenance. We are a bit lazy and very willing and able to ignore or table a small issue until we can give it “more attention.” It often looks like procrastination. Work and effort are required to handle these little foxes, but we would rather invest that time and energy in enjoyable endeavors or fun activities. Or, if we are tackling trouble areas, we’ll invest the energy into an in-your-face issue that has been put off far too long—one that now demands our attention. In the meantime, however, we ignore the small core issues that really need our attention.
Make a commitment to pay attention to the little foxes in your marriage and significant relationships, such as being thoughtless or preoccupied, making sarcastic comments, forgetting anniversaries or birthdays, criticizing, always needing to “win,” taking your spouse for granted and not appreciating the little things they do. These little foxes might seem unimportant, but they can eventually knock a person, a marriage and, ultimately, a whole family into the abyss of confusion, frustration and despair. And it almost always starts with little, almost imperceptible issues.
Are you letting any foxes loose in your marriage? Are you spending time with your spouse, or has “busyness” taken over? Has that luster of wanting to spend every moment with him or her worn off? Remember when you couldn’t take your hands off each other? Remember when you couldn’t hang up because you would miss her voice? Do you really listen to him talk? Do you persist in that little habit that irritates her? With God’s help, identify these little pebbles in your shoe before they become bigger, divisive wedges.
For you single people, let me say that all of us married people vowed never to let foxes into our vineyards. We all have boasted, “That will never happen to me.” But as you see, we all fall prey to the insidious trickery of the sly foxes Satan uses to undermine what God has ordained and blessed. Safeguard your heart and mind now—before you get married. Practice these skills in all your relationships. Then you will be better equipped when you enter in the most joyful, demanding and difficult relationship of your life. When the time comes, you will have a better chance in your marriage. Also, these principles apply not just to marriage, but to every relationship we find ourselves in—especially parenting.
Today, go on a foxhunt to be sure pesky little patterns or habits aren’t creeping up on you. Replace the destructive little foxes with acts of love and the willingness to put God at the center of the relationship. Address the issue head on. Plan a surprise dinner for two. Buy a sentimental gift. Join your spouse in one of his or her favorite activities, even if it’s not your thing. These little acts of thoughtfulness can help a marriage move forward. Then authentic and difficult discussions can happen and be fruitful. Deeper relational fulfillment can be found. Whether you go on a foxhunt or you lie around but expect relationships to magically get better, it’s your decision, so choose well.
Dear God, forgive me for how I have acted toward one of the greatest gifts You have given me—my spouse. Marriage is so powerful, but also tricky and complex. Help me become more aware of the “little foxes” that I bring to the marriage, and help me replace them with love as I focus on You. I wish I were a better husband/wife, but with Your love for me, I can channel that love to my spouse. I pray this and all prayers in the name of Jesus Christ. And all God’s children say AMEN!
“Catch all the foxes, those little foxes, before they ruin the vineyard of love, for the grapevines are blossoming!” Song of Solomon 2:15
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23