In Strike The Original Match, Chuck Swindoll relates this humorous story:
“Four-year-old Suzie had just been told the story of Snow White for the first time in her life. She could hardly wait to get home from nursery school to tell her mommy. After relating how Prince Charming had arrived on his beautiful white horse and kissed Snow White back to life, Suzie asked loudly, ‘And do you know what happened then?’
‘Yes,’ said her mom, ‘They lived happily ever after.’
‘No,’ responded Suzie with a frown, ‘They got married.’
Getting married and living happily ever after are not necessarily synonymous.”
Marriages today often reveal the struggles that can arise as two people commit to love each other and live life together. In Bill McCartney’s autobiography, Sold Out, the former Colorado football coach wrote about his lifetime of failings, especially in his marriage. “Tucked away in the folds of my life are countless episodes that could strip away the mystique and pretense of what some think of me.” He calls himself a “highly flawed, ordinary man who has made it through only with the help of an extraordinary God.”
Sold Out is presented as Bill McCartney’s story, but the book also contains nine sections written by Lyndi, his wife. They provide a good window into Bill’s spiritual journey. Lyndi reveals the monumental price she paid as McCartney’s “trophy wife,” a woman who for years stood on the sidelines while McCartney coached Colorado’s football team to a national championship. Her comments help underscore what brought their never-great marriage to a crisis in 1993, when Lyndi says she found herself in “an emotional deep-freeze.”
That year began in soap-opera fashion when, on New Year’s Day, Bill came clean to Lyndi about an affair he had had with another woman two decades earlier in their marriage. That confession, which the McCartneys chose not to put in the book but was reported by the New York Times, left Lyndi devastated. At the time, Bill was at the pinnacle of his coaching career. In a manner typical of the way he operated at the time, he confessed his adultery just moments before walking out the door to coach the Fiesta Bowl game.
In the months that followed, Lyndi’s emotional and physical health reached the breaking point. To cope, she rarely left the bedroom of their home. She contemplated taking her own life. For more than seven months she vomited every day, losing 80 pounds. Bill, busy with football and with managing the Promise Keepers movement, remained oblivious. While Lyndi had no intention of leaving her marriage, she says she began building “emotional siege walls” between herself and her husband.
“The Lord was the only one I felt I could trust.” Lyndi claims she wasn’t bothered by Bill’s lack of attention during their 30-year marriage “most of the time.” She stayed reasonably happy with her responsibilities as a mother “most of the time.” But she admits they lived separate lives. As her husband soared to the pinnacle of his career, “I just felt like I was getting smaller and smaller.”
God used two events to turn McCartney around. One was a Promise Keepers rally where men were told to write down the number their wives would give their marriages if rating them on a scale of one to ten. Bill rated their marriage a six. The second event was in the fall of 1994, when a guest speaker at their church stated, “If you want to know about a man’s character, then look into the face of his wife. Whatever he has invested in or withheld from her will be reflected in her countenance.” Bill literally turned to face his wife and saw in his wife’s haunted, empty eyes his own sinful neglect staring back at him. “Escorting my wounded wife out to the church parking lot, I began to pray about the timing of my resignation from the University of Colorado.”
Whether you find yourself in a struggling marriage, know somebody who is having marriage trouble, are enjoying your own marriage or are just wondering about marriages today, let’s start with some good news. God created marriage! He did this so men and women would come alongside one another and partner together. Since God also created us, He has also given us the Bible that instructs us how to live life according to His creative design. I want to explore what a Biblical marriage relationship looks like in my upcoming blogs. I believe God’s truth can bring healthy life into marriages. As scripture states, “Marriage should be honored by all” (Heb. 13:4).