I’m feeling whimsical today, so without further ado, I present to you nine figures in literature for whom marriage truly did cause, as Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 7, “distress in this life”:
- MacBeth – How much trouble would he have gotten into if it hadn’t been for that wife of his? After all, he was content to sit around waiting for destiny to happen to him. It was Lady MacBeth who insisted they had to kill the king to make destiny come true. I bet he wished he’d just ditched his wife and waited on fate.
- Samson – Okay, maybe he wasn’t actually married to Delilah, but I think long-term monogamous relationships count as no longer single. *G* And you know he really regretted being with her, right about the time they put out his eyes. Sure, God redeemed that situation. God can redeem any situation. But I bet Samson would have preferred to keep his eyesight and his bulging biceps.
- Arwen Undomiel – She was like a thousand years older than her husband, not to mention immortal. He lived to be 210, but they were only married for about 140 of those years, and to a woman who’s supposed to live forever, dying after only 140 years together had to be a bitter pill to swallow.
- King Arthur – I have to think if Arthur had known all the trouble he was going to have with his wife, he probably would have skipped marrying Guinevere and stuck with the tried-and-true bromance he had with Lancelot.
- Penelope – You know, the lady who was stuck at home weaving for ten years while her husband fought a war, and another ten years while he tried to find his way home? Odysseus got to kill people, build big wooden horses, see his men turned into pigs, and sleep with a nymph, and what did she get? All her hubby’s boorish friends got home ahead of him and harassed her to forget about him and marry one of them. All the bad points of being single, with none of the benefits.
- Romeo Montague and/or Juliet Capulet – I’m not sure which of them got the worst end of the deal. They fell in love, they played some elaborate tricks on their friends and family, saw family members killed, and eventually ended up committing suicide. Then again, imagine if they’d lived–they would probably have bred some seriously messed-up, impulsive, devious little kids.
- Hosea – Don’t you guys ever feel bad for poor Hosea son of Beeri? God told him to take a “wife of harlotry” and name his kids things that translate to “not my people” and “not pitied.” Then Gomer runs away and Hosea has to go find her and bring her home again, because God tells him to. I mean, I know artists suffer for their art, and prophets suffer for their faith, but really, Hosea might have been happier as a bachelor.
- Eddard Stark – Yeah, I went there. How much trouble could Ned have avoided if he hadn’t left behind a woman more protective than a mother bear and clearly out of her mind with grief? Come on, if Catelyn hadn’t been dead set on revenge …er, justice, how many of her family members would have come through everything safely. Then again…
- Catelyn Tully Stark – …the case could be made that, without Ned’s somewhat naive sense of honor, she wouldn’t have had to deal with 1) a bastard to raise, 2) a beheaded husband, 3) a betrayed son, 4) a back-stabbing ex-lover, 5) a bargain-breaking sister… Okay, I’ll stop there.
Of course, I’m being flippant in this list. After all, for the two Biblical figures mentioned in the list, God redeemed their situation. After Delilah’s betrayal, anyone would have been justified in thinking Samson’s life was ruined, finished, kaput. Samson’s buddies probably sat around and said, “Man, that woman destroyed him. It would have been better if he’d never met her.” But in Samson’s weakest moments, blinded, chained up, captive, he was finally humbled enough to cry out to God, asking for one last moment of strength. And in that moment, he destroyed his enemies.
Similarly, Hosea was stuck with a bum deal. An unfaithful wife who probably didn’t really want him to begin with, and certainly didn’t want him after she’d born him three kids. Unable to see what a good deal she had, she ran away from him, only to be pursued by him, because he loved her. And through Hosea and Gomer’s stories, God illustrated His own relationship with Israel–and His relationship today with us. Even though we didn’t know we needed Him, He chose us; even when we turned away from Him, He pursued us; even when we shamed Him, He loved us.
It makes you wonder what God could do with the lives of Ned and Catelyn Stark.