(Photo courtesy of bfi.org.uk)
Restoring Connection in Marriage – Lessons from “The Bishop’s Wife”
By Iain Dick
I love Christmas. I love Christmas movies. I like that with every Christmas movie, there seems to be some kind of message promoting kindness, giving, family, and togetherness. But recently I watched a classic – 1947’s “The Bishop’s Wife,” starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven. Among the black and white scenes of hustle and bustle, there’s a chaos that strikes a chord with me that’s dangerously close to home.
If you’re okay with me being real with you for a moment, I find life hard and stressful sometimes. Stress in itself isn’t necessarily always bad – it can be a way of making things happen when they need to. But when we start to allow stress to stay longer than it’s needed, and don’t know how to manage it, it can cause real damage.
We all know how to spot that stressed person: Can’t finish a meal, pulled in every direction, can’t seem to focus on anything long enough to completion. Bishop Brougham is the overseer of a large, wealthy parish with influence, and knows many people of influence. When we meet him in the movie, he’s not in a good way. He’s feeling more than just seasonal stress (let’s not forget the comment made by his wife, after he’s finished a particularly tough meeting “…your poor, harassed face.”) He can’t even hide it anymore. What’s worse than feeling stressed, is other people noticing it, and criticizing you for it. As we hear from a harsh, wealthy woman who is far from impressed with the wearied Bishop’s performance, finding him “…confused, indecisive, and ineffectual.” Ouch!
I heard someone say quite recently, that their view on lockdown was that it was a “forced Sabbath.” How many of us who serve in our local church, work for church, lead a ministry, or volunteer at a food bank, have forgotten what a Sabbath is?
It’s so easy for us to start forgetting things like breaks, days off, holidays, all in the name of a servant’s heart. We justify our unwise choices by saying that it’s “for the Kingdom.” But God didn’t ever ask us to be busy. Nowhere in the Bible does it say “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst, burn the candle at both ends, forget to rest, prioritize work over family, prioritize work over God…”
The movie emphasized to me the epidemic of busyness, and the dangers it can lead to. But don’t worry, this is not a warning; this is more of an “It’s ok that things have gotten busy, but here’s your chance to catch it. Slow it down, and let God remind you of why you’re here, together.”
Here are 3 things I took away from “The Bishop’s Wife” that my wife and I will be giving attention to this festive season:
- He goes before/instead of you, making a way for you. When you stop to delight in His character, He blesses you – your cup will be refilled time and again.
“You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (Psalms 16:11).
- Delight in your family. If you’re not present for their affections, they’ll find something/someone else for them. This part’s scary. You won’t receive a gold star from your wife or family for running yourself into the ground. But when you invest time, attention, and affection into them, the blessing will be manifold! As the husband and father, you are the head of your household. It is your responsibility to love your family, and lead them into God’s love and His truth. But don’t fret – He wants you to ask for His help!
- Don’t forget to Sabbath. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
God rested – what makes you think you shouldn’t, too?! Stop. Rest. Recuperate. Refocus. You may have slipped up, or dropped the ball. But this is your chance to catch it.
It’s only after everything has come back into alignment, with clear focus, do we hear Bishop Brougham begin his Christmas Eve sermon, where he utters the following encouragement: “…then each [of us] put in his share; lovingkindness, warm hearts, and a stretched-out hand of tolerance, all the shining gifts make peace on earth.”
God bless you, and have a Merry Christmas!