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What a Dying Fly Teaches Us About Miserable Marriages

Patsy Rae Dawson

After four decades of teaching on good, bad, and ugly marriages from the Bible and being the confident of both men and women, Price Pritchett's observations about a dying fly captured my attention as I recognized the uncanny similarities to miserable marriages.A dying fly trying to break through a closed windowpane.

"There's a small fly burning out the last of its short life's energies in a futile attempt to fly through the glass of the windowpane."

The Bible uses insects to teach simple life truths. Consider how Solomon studied the ant as an example of hard work in Proverbs 6:6 and 30:25. Then in Ecclesiastes 10:1, the writer said, "Dead flies make a perfumer's oil stink, so a little foolishness is weightier than wisdom and honor."


At the beginning of Pritchett's book You Squared, he told the story of a dying fly. See if you don't, likewise, recognize a haunting parallel with a dying fly to desperate marriages:

I'm sitting in a quiet room at the Millcroft Inn, a peaceful little place hidden back amongst the pine trees about an hour out of Toronto. It's just past noon, late July, and I'm listening to the desperate sounds of a life-or-death struggle going on a few feet away. There's a small fly burning out the last of its short life's energies in a futile attempt to fly through the glass of the windowpane. The whining wings tell the poignant story of the fly's strategy--try harder.

But it's not working.

The frenzied effort offers no hope for survival. Ironically, the struggle is part of the trap. It is impossible for the fly to try hard enough to succeed at breaking through the glass. Nevertheless, this little insect has stacked its life on reaching its goal through raw effort and determination.

This fly is doomed. It will die there on the windowsill.

Across the room, ten steps away, the door is open. Ten seconds of flying time and this small creature could reach the outside world it seeks. With only a fraction of the effort now being wasted, it could free itself of this self-imposed trap. The breakthrough possibility is there. It would be so easy.

Why doesn't the fly try another approach, something dramatically different? How did it get so locked in on the idea that this particular route, and determined effort, offer the most promise for success? What logic is there in continuing to, until death, to seek a breakthrough with "more of the same"?

No doubt this approach makes sense to the fly. Regrettably, it's an idea that will kill.

"Trying harder" isn't necessarily the solution to achieving more. It may not offer any real promise for getting what you want out of life. Sometimes in fact, it's a big part of the problem.

If you stake your hopes for a breakthrough on trying harder than ever, you may kill your chances for success.

Note the similarities between the dying fly and dying marriages:

"The poignant story of the fly's strategy--try harder."

Popular religions, elders, and preachers often tell husbands and wives they can break through the windowpane of marital misery by trying harder with this advice:

  • That is just your cross to bear for Jesus.
  • If you complain about your husband's treatment of you, then you are a Jezebel.
  • If you complain about your wife's treatment of you, then you are a sexual addict.
  • God hates divorce.
  • You need to keep your home intact for your children's sake.
  • Just be more submissive.
  • It's your job to make your husband happy.
  • Pray to God to hide your husband's adultery from you then it won't bother you and you can continue to love him and be submissive.
  • If you tell anyone what is going on in your home, you are gossiping.
  • Don't worry. If your husband gets too bad, God will strike him dead like Nabal.

These fruitless fruit fly techniques are anti-God and anti-Bible. Frequently, these simpleton responses to sin in the home destroy faith in a faithful God who does not trap husbands and wives in the fly’s death struggle against an object that lets in just enough light to make a false promise of freedom.

“This fly is doomed. It will die there on the windowsill.”

Many Christian husbands and wives struggle mightily to fly through their mates’ closed windowpanes of sin:

  • Sexual duds who accuse their mates of being oversexed rather than learning how to speak a beautiful language of love in each other's eager arms that transcends spoken words that originated within the mind of God.
  • Adulterers and sexual addicts along with homosexuals and lesbians married to straights who live for self-gratification rather than learning how to truly love their mates.
  • Emotional and physical abusers who ridicule their mates' feelings and rights while demanding their own wants or use the silent treatment to control.

These sins in the home present the hardest marriage problems to overcome, not because God doesn’t give the answers in his word, because he does. But because people involved in these sins seldom feel motivated to work at overcoming them. Instead, they often feign just enough change to control the mates’ anger and to lock them into the death struggle of trying harder. Their attitude dooms the marriage. It will die there on the windowsill.

Perhaps the greatest casualties of these sins are the children. Often the innocent mate walks on eggshells trying to keep everything running smoothly thinking they are providing a safe environment for their children.

However, the children acutely suffer from the sinful parent's inability to love anyone and grow up love starved. When they leave home and start trying to sort through their childhood and how it now robs them of a productive adult life; invariably, they blame the innocent parent for not protecting them. The irony? The suffering mate thought he or she was protecting the children, only to be rejected by the children as adults.

I have heard this complaint so many times by older parents, that when these mothers and fathers wonder why their children reject them, I start asking questions related to the three most difficult sins to overcome in the home. These adult children need to hear the innocent parent ask for forgiveness for not standing up to the sin in their home. Just smoothing it over to get along really doesn't work at the time, and the price extracted later is immense.

“Across the room, ten steps away, the door is open.”

God does not force anyone to love him or to obey him—he accepts the choice our mates and we make for ourselves. Certainly, as humans, we cannot force our mates to love us or want to make a successful marriage with us. Trying so hard to win another’s love stacks our life on raw effort and determination that seldom finds reciprocation.

Love is a choice we can make only for ourselves. We can only accept our mates’ choice and fly for the open door instead of exhausting ourselves trying to earn their love, thinking if we could only be or do better, they would finally love us.

“If you stake your hopes for a breakthrough on trying harder than ever, you may kill your chances for success.”

After 40 years of being a confident to both men and women, I’ve never observed a Christian who made a sexual dud, adulterer, sexual addict, homosexual or lesbian married to a straight, or an emotional or physical abuser happy and loving. Those changes must radiate from within, instead of our trying harder to fly through their closed windowpane of selfish demands on us.

The dying fly illustrates how we cannot open any of these sinful windowpanes no matter how hard we flutter against them with our buzzing complaints. Only our mates can open these windows to let true love flow from their hearts into our marriages to bless our children. The ultimate choice belongs to them and their willingness to trust God with their feelings and intimate life.

All we can do is fulfill God’s plan for us and hold our mates accountable for the sin in their lives that they use to destroy our marriages and to turn our children into emotional cripples. Paul does not teach us to flutter harder against a rigid windowpane of sin as many elders, preachers, and churches advocate. Instead, in his introduction to subjection and leadership, Paul begins by instructing us to balance subjection and leadership with accountability in Ephesians 5:11:

And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them...

May God forgive the ignorance of our past in not dealing adequately with sins in our homes as we reach forward to serve him with boldness and truth.

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