Out of the Woods

The pop/country megastar Taylor Swift released a new song and video on New Year’s Eve. The song is called “Out of the Woods,” and a week later has already been viewed millions of times. The video can be seen here and describes a recent failed relationship between her and another singer. The video starts with successive black screens saying: She. Lost. Him. The lyrics powerfully describe memories shared from this relationship. The memories are snapshots in time of wonderful or difficult parts of their relationship.

After each verse she sings, “And I remember thinkin

Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods?
Are we in the clear yet? 

Are we in the clear yet?
Are we in the clear yet?
In the clear yet?

Good

Are we out of the woods?”

The video does a great job showing the dark, difficult, treacherous woods, and wolves attacking her, tripping her, and falling in the mud. The woods are a picture of the difficulties that happen in life and in a relationship.

The video also shows the ideal picture of being out of the woods as a beautiful sunny white sand beach/paradise.

The song does its best to portray what many are trying to achieve in a relationship. Asking “Are we out of the woods yet?” implies that there is a point in the relationship where we won’t be in the woods any longer, and we will be in relational paradise. We will have “Made It” so to speak in our relationship.

The song typifies what many believe and are striving for in a relationship. However, there are several dangers in viewing relationships this way:

It sets you up to be disappointed

Let me tell you right now, there is no relational nirvana that is somehow achieved after a couple makes its way through the woods. There is no paradise awaiting some mystical breakthrough. Relationships are hard work. My wife and I have had a fantastic relationship over the last 12 years, and it gets better each year, but we are still “in The Woods.” There will always be difficulties. Life is hard, and being married and staying committed to work out differences is one of the most difficult things we do in life. In marriage, you face pressures of raising kids, finances, health, and a myriad of other difficulties. The woods are life. There may be peaceful, sunny meadows as we travel the path through the woods, but paradise is only found after this life. The only time we make it out of the woods is when we fulfill the words “until death do us part.” Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”  If you don’t view the woods as an essential part of your relationship, you will be disappointed.

It reduces the importance of “The Woods”

James 1:2-4 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

The difficulties of life have a purifying effect on our lives. God uses the difficulties in our relationships to develop deeper character, faith, and intimacy. “The Woods” are not something we are just trying to get through so that we can enjoy the paradise; they are the means by which God deepens our relationship and purifies our lives. We need to embrace the pain of the woods.

I remember my wife and I having a very intense argument a few years ago. It got to the point that we were yelling at each other so loudly that I went throughout the house shutting windows, so that the neighbors didn’t have to listen to our argument. It was ugly. I will never forget that argument though because something special happened. In the midst of the yelling and trying to make my points, God convicted me deeply of my selfishness. It was like I was slapped across the face. I immediately stopped yelling and apologized. I told my wife, “I am so sorry. I am not listening to you. I am being selfish and just trying to get my point across. Will you forgive me? Will you explain your perspective again? This time I will listen and seek to understand you.” My wife then apologized as well, and we began to listen to one another and seek to understand each other. We learned a very valuable lesson that day: seek to understand before being understood. It has served our marriage well ever since. We had to be in the woods to learn that lesson and to let God change us.

It encourages you to give up

When faced with difficulties, you can choose to grow by them, or you can seek to make the pain less. If you believe that at some point you should be achieving relational nirvana but you don’t feel like you are making it, the easiest thing to do is give up. In relationships today, there is an easy button. It is easy to break off a marriage at any moment. Divorce is like an escape helicopter that will take you out of the woods.

If it gets really difficult, why not take the easier route? If you believe that trails and difficulties are an essential part of making your relationship better, you want to persevere in the relationship. The way God designed us to have the best possible relationship is to stay together in marriage for a lifetime through the good times and the bad. Some of the best relationships I have seen are couples who go through the greatest difficulties together. I am not saying that everyone should remain married no matter what happens. The scriptures are clear when there are times it is OK to leave a relationship. What I am saying is many people give up because it is difficult, and they seek an easier way. If you begin a relationship with the perspective that the difficulties are the path to a stronger deeper relationship, it will help you persevere and learn through those times instead of giving up.

Instead of striving to get to a place of relationship paradise that does not exist, let us embrace the reality of the difficulties of life and let God use them to forge deep, intimate, and strong relationships. In answering the question, “Are we out of the woods yet?” The answer is “no,” and that is good.

 

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