January 20, 2015

From Fiasco to Fine

Gary Thomas — 


The word “fiasco,” something that is considered a complete failure, was born in Italy. Literally, it means to “make a bottle,” or “make a wine glass.”

It can have a fascinating connection to marriage.

Some of you may recall that my Italian publisher invited Lisa and me to Italy in December to speak at a conference and launch the Italian publication of three of my books. We went a little early, spending a few days in Florence and then hiring an Italian driver to take us from Florence down to Assisi.

Our driver was a wonderful guide filled with many stories. As we drove through the achingly beautiful Tuscany region, he explained that the word fiasco could be traced back to the Chianti wine region in Tuscany. Not that long ago—200 years, perhaps—Chianti wine tasted awful; it was “rot gut” produced in squat bottles called “fiascos.”

Chianti bottle

When the wine became a joke, and even the bottle structure failed (it typically fell over) the name for it, “fiasco,” began to be more widely used for anything that was considered a failure (sort of like the way the word “Watergate” is used for any political scandal). A military operation, a poorly designed car, a shoddily built house could all be called “fiascos.”

Today, Tuscany is proud to boast Chianti wine. Now served in more traditional bottles, Chianti wine is considered a premium blend that commands high prices. Here’s how one website, “Temple of Wine,” describes it: “Chianti is a famous dry red Italian wine produced in Tuscany, and it is one of the most credited wines in the world. It is named after the Chianti wine-growing region in Tuscany… Warm climate, dry soil full of nutrients and minerals necessary for the grapes, and skilled vintners all these factors add to the wonderful taste of Chianti wine and gained this wine a great world reputation.”

Think about this for a moment: a rot gut wine that literally led to the creation of the derisive word “fiasco” is now “one of the most credited wines in the world.”

I’ve seen marriages act like this, going from disaster to premium. Matt Chandler writes about how the first seven years of his marriage were in many ways just awful—but today, he and his wife enjoy a rich marriage. I’ve talked to couples that got so frustrated with their marriage they actually got a divorce—and now, years later, they’re remarried and the best of friends.

Where you are in your marriage now—even if it’s a fiasco—doesn’t mean you can’t get to a much better place.

That’s partly why I wrote A Lifelong Love. You can have a marriage that looks and feels like a fiasco. You can say, “It’s a disaster, through and through. Even the packaging stinks.” But a poor start doesn’t mean there can’t be a glorious finish. I believe the spiritual principles of applied worship, intentional pursuit of intimacy, growing in a biblical understanding of love, and embracing God’s agenda for marriage over ours can take a “fiasco” of a marriage and turn it into something that will nourish, delight, and even inspire many.

It takes time. It takes effort. It takes developing some skills and growing in insight. But if you feel like your marriage is a fiasco, that doesn’t mean you have to abandon the “region.” Just learn to grow better grapes. Find a better mix. Offer what you have to God, the ultimate vintner, and watch what He can do with it.

The things that plague your marriage now, put in the hands of God by faith, addressed through a heart of faith can be used as fertilizer to produce a rich soil that leads to a celebrated relationship.

grapes final for blogThank God for those couples who are humble and honest and willingly tell people of these marriage “turnarounds.” Young couples, couples in crisis, couples who have all but given up need hope. Yes, marriage can seem really, really bad at times—but God heals and rebuilds, and in His hands even a bad marriage can become really, really good.

It won’t happen by accident or chance, but it also won’t happen by abandoning the region. Take heart, apply faith, and watch a fiasco of a marriage be turned into a premium wine.

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5 responses to From Fiasco to Fine

  1. Somewhat misleading article concerning the production of Chianti.

    “As the wines of Chianti grew in popularity other villages in Tuscany wanted their lands to be called Chianti. The boundaries of the region have seen many expansions and sub-divisions over the centuries. The variable terroir of these different macroclimates contributed to diverging range of quality on the market and by the late 20th century consumer perception of Chianti was often associated with basic mass-market Chianti sold in a squat bottle enclosed in a straw basket, called fiasco.” – Wikipedia

    While I understand the point you’re trying to make, it would be more accurate to say that not all of the wine produced in Chianti was bad… It was more of a perception/branding/poor imitation issue than an issue of bad grapes and bad wine throughout the region.

    When you fill in the gaps, it may not be the best example for what you’re trying to get across here.

    • Even if it is not an ideal example, his point is based on the faithfulness of God and His Word. That’s far more important than your newfound wisdom from Wikipedia!

  2. Thanks, Gary. Your books are so inspiring and full of wisdom. They should be required reading for anyone thinking of marriage. Couples need to know that know matter how hard (or bad) things can get, it’s just a season. Marriage is like a fine wine that continues to get better with time. Just keep at it.

  3. Gary,
    Your blog and your books are filled with so much truth and wisdom! All of us start out young and unripe (without knowledge) but if we stay the course, HIS course, we will age gracefully like fine wine – perfect picture of life and marriage. Thanks again for giving us a practical picture of a biblical marriage.
    Most kindly,