Airline Chaos A Lesson for Christian Marriage

My mother used many catchy phrases to speak the truth to me as a boy. I did not know, and honestly, I am sure she knew their origin was the Bible. Two that have stuck with me and are often quoted are these. Birds of a feather flock together. The source is I Corinthians 15:33. The second phrase is “the little foxes spoil the grapes.” The source is the Song of Solomon 2:15. This latter came to mind as I read about the airline fiasco of yesterday.

Great Illustration of the Little Foxes

Nearly 5,000 flights were delayed, and almost 900 were canceled by 10 a.m. Wednesday after a computer outage led to a Federal Aviation Administration grounding order. As it turns out, an improper repair on a small digital component was the culprit.

Foxes are crafty, clever animals. They are beautiful creatures that could easily pass for a friendly dogs.  However, they would quickly create chaos in the chicken yard, leaving severe damage. So when he put it back in place, this digital equipment looked great to the mechanic. He may have felt rather clever and satisfied, but the malfunctioning caused great chaos.

Let’s think of the little foxes and this ill-fated equipment as minor faults in our character that we may not even notice, like jealousy, dishonesty, selfishness, envy, resentment, etc. For example, the following scenario has passed through my office numerous times. A wife might complain a little bit, act meanly toward her husband, or speak carelessly, impugning his value and hurting feelings. Or a husband shuts down for days after his wife and mother of their two under-four children did wish to make love two nights in a row. Little foxes! Faulty digital instrument!

Great Illustrative Allegory

Researcher and writer Dr. John Gottman borrow some descriptive language from the book of Revelation (6:1-8) to create a powerful image to depict a downward spiral in marital relationships. Anyone who does marriage counseling, be it biblical or secular, has observed this spiral on many occasions. It likely accounts for the most recent time-line divorce trend in America of three years.

The four horsemen he and his research team observed are criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. No, these words are not in Bible as a pattern, neither are they the identity of those in Revelation. But here is an illustration I recently watched play out in the life of a young couple in counseling.

  • It started with her being critical of her husband for not providing what she expected.
  • His response was disbelief which quickly turned into defensiveness.
  • Her response was an expression of contempt and unwillingness to follow his leadership.
  • His response was very predictable. He began stonewalling, that is, shutting down communication and withdrawing.

Defeating the Four Horsemen

Thankfully, Christin couples tend to respond well to biblical counseling. A biblical counselor will listen to the husband and wife until this pattern is discerned. He then asks a question worded something like this. Here is what I hear. Now, you are both believers, so let me ask you a question. My “you” here is singular. Each of you answers for yourself—no pointing fingers (said with a smile). As you mentally review your thoughts and words, tell what word you think the Lord would speak to describe your words and actions if he were sitting here. While there may be some hesitation, both will finally verbalize that He would say sin.

Once this point is reached, the counselor can continue to repentance, including seeking and granting forgiveness. However, that excellent process is not the end of the “game.” The counselor must then coach them through examining the sources of the values that have given rise to the pattern of responses. This journey will be a wonderful discipleship and growth opportunity. The counselor will help them examine both family and cultural history. Understanding these dynamics and learning how to inculcate a changed heart to live out Colossians 3:12.

Responsibility to change: You (the implied subject) set your mind on things above (v. 2)

Begins with: You (implied subject) consider yourself dead to…. (v.5)

Process—Step 1: You (implied subject) put aside your anger, wrath…and abusive speech (v.8)

Process—Step 2: You (implied subject) put on a heart (mind) of compassion…(v.12)

Process—Step 3: You (implied subject) put on love…(v. 14)

Process—Step 4: Let the of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called (15)

Process—Step 5: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…. (16)

Turing the Four Horsemen Away

Mother was right! The little foxes destroy the harvest. God intends for marriage to be the most meaningful of all human relationships. He chooses it as the New Testament illustration of his relationship with His church. Little wonder marriage has been and today more intently than at any time since Christ, Satan’s target.

Believers can be more than conquerors! They can not only defeat the four horsemen in their marriage but also a model for those around them and thereby turn the four horsemen away in the lives of others. Of course, as is always the case, no couple will do it perfectly, but once that pattern of Colossians becomes the habit of life, the times when the horsemen get any traction will be further separated.


  • Read this article again and then ask your mate to read it.
  • Ask your mate to give you an honest appraisal and specific ways you practice one or more of the horsemen. While they follow a sequential pattern, they also can be an occasional tool to get one’s way.
  • Own your guilt. Seek forgiveness. As your mate, rather than reacting when you fail, calmly point out your failure and give your pledge to receive the admonition.
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