January 15th, 2010 by Kristi Stephens
If you’ve been reading Fresh Year, Fresh Start this week, your toes are probably bleeding a bit… as mine are. Lori kicked us off with a fresh look at submission, Kelly reminded us that respecting our husbands is an act of obedience, and Sandra reminded us that respect begins in our hearts. Jessica challenged us to fix that leaky faucet, and Erin asked if our husbands would rather live on the roof than with us inside! Yesterday, Brooke shared her own journey and commitment to safeguard her marriage, and Teri Lynne gave us a peek into the struggle we all face to guard our marriages against “every day” stressors. [And I hope you are planning to link up your own thoughts at the end of this post!]
Today, much more than most posts I write, I wish you were in my living room. I wish I could bring you a cup of hot chocolate and share my heart with you.
Today’s post is especially for those of you who have walked through some unbelievably difficult valleys in your marriages. For those of you who have felt betrayed, who have faced your worst fears, who have dealt with serious sin issues in your husbands’ lives.
I want to consider together what it means to bring our husbands good… even when we don’t feel good about it.
Here’s the thing: you married a human being. A sinful, flawed, desperately-in-need-of-grace human being. A human being just like you.
He will fail you. He might fail you in little ways – he might leave his socks on the floor and the toilet seat up. He might spend untold numbers of hours watching football or playing video games rather than working hard to build up his home and family. He might fail you in big ways – he might have an affair, become addicted to substances or images, turn his back on the Lord. Whether in big or small ways, he will fail you because he is human. And you will fail him because you are human.
So, what’s a girl to do when her Prince Charming falls off his steed and crashes ungracefully to the forest floor?
1. We have to release our fears to God and see that ultimately He is our provider, our protector, our healer.
I don’t know about you, but I have found that the times in my life when I am the most un-gracious are when I am struggling with fear.
You might be afraid that he will lose his job and your family will suffer. You might be afraid that he will betray you and leave you stranded. You might be afraid that he will embarrass you. You might be afraid that he will somehow shipwreck this dream of how your life will be.
When we are controlled by those fears, it is like our giant lion-claws come out… we dig them deep into their shoulders in an effort to control them and threaten them – “if you dare mess this up…”
Let me be real with you here. When NP and I were first engaged, I started to really struggle with fear. Fear that he would mess up my life, fear that he would walk away from God, fear that he would fail me. Submission was more than unappealing – it was scary! Submitting my life to God, who is perfect and always is working for my ultimate good, is not scary to me. Submitting myself to a man, who is not perfect and deals with selfishness and sin just like I do, IS PETRIFYING.
What God has taught me over and over and over again is this: if I believe that God is truly sovereign (and I do), He is no less in control of my life as I obey His command to submit to my husband than He would be if I were single. I have to rest in the fact that even when my husband sins and fails and struggles, God is still active and evident in my life – He knows my needs, He knows my pain, He knows. Our husbands will inevitably fail us, but God never will.
2. If our marriages are going to succeed, we must be honest with our own failures, our own need for God’s grace… and then we must extend that grace freely to our husbands.
Perhaps you’re objecting at this point. “Kristi, you don’t know what he did…” No, I don’t. But I do know this: the ground at the foot of the cross is level. None of us are “deserving” of grace any more than another. That is the point of grace… we don’t deserve it.
No, your husband doesn’t deserve to be forgiven. You don’t forgive someone based on their merit – you forgive them because God has forgiven you. Forgiveness that has to be earned isn’t forgiveness at all.
3. Real grace-filled marriages don’t have loopholes in the covenant. The part where I say stuff that might make people mad.
If you have ever thought to yourself or said out loud, “if he ever…” with some kind of marriage-ending, covenant-breaking end to that statement, you’re not operating from a mindset of grace.
I am convinced that part of the reason why so many Christian marriages end is because even as we say that marriage is sacred and worth fighting for, we operate from a “how dare you… that’s the last straw” mentality. As though there were unpardonable sins that brought you to a point of no return.
Here is my challenge to you. Sometime today when you have quiet time by yourself – washing dishes, driving the car, whatever – I want you to think about the absolute worst thing you think your husband could do. Your worst fears. And I want you to prayerfully think about what it would look like to forgive that offense.
Let me be clear: forgiveness like this is not natural. We don’t want to offer it, and we can’t in our own power. Wrestle this through with the Lord – ask Him to search your heart and see any self-righteousness, any judgment, any sinful bitterness that lurks in your heart. If we can come to a place of resting in the Lord in the “even if ____” scenario, those daily irritations and hurts will pale in comparison.
If we are operating from a true perspective of grace – freely given and completely undeserved – grace that God has shown us in unimaginable ways… there is no unpardonable sin.
4. Embrace the fact that you are God’s gift to your husband, and he is God’s gift to you.
“I receive you as God’s beautiful gift to me” is actually a line from the vows my husband and I said at our wedding. I think this is such a beautiful concept.
God knows me inside and out. He sees when I sit and when I rise. He perceives my thoughts from afar… none of my sin or weaknesses are hidden from His sight. The same is true for God and my husband. God knows him inside and out – God sees his strengths, He sees where he is weak.
And God gave my husband to me, and me to my husband. We are gifts to one another from our sovereign Creator and Lord.
Why? He did not give us to one another to make each other happy and fulfill our deepest longings and make our dreams come true. He gave us to one another to make us holy. To be agents of sanctification in one another’s lives.
So, let’s say that my husband confesses an area of sin to me, or I observe a weakness in him. I have a choice. I can freak out, beat him over the head with his sin, threaten him, scold him, nag him… I can slander him to others and verbally destroy him. OR I can confront sin gently and lovingly, I can forgive him, I can offer grace even as I challenge him to obey the Lord.
The difference? Am I trying to make myself look better, am I reacting out of self-righteous ugliness, or am I seeking his good? Am I treasuring him as God’s gift to me? Am I accepting that God might use our marriage to challenge areas of sin in both his life and mine?
At some point I have to wrap up this post before it turns into a book. [Which it just might, by the way!]
Let me leave you with some practical thoughts, friend to friend:
*One of the greatest gifts we can give to our men is a commitment to pray for them. To pray as though it were our job. This is something that has helped me in the past.
* I love that Proverbs 31 says that this woman’s husband has “full confidence” in her. As wives, we know things about our husbands that no one else knows. Don’t violate his confidence in you. Don’t share information that he has not authorized you to share. Protect him where he is vulnerable – make his relationship with you a safe place.
*Forgiveness doesn’t mean pretending that what he does doesn’t hurt you. Forgiveness isn’t glossing over sin or ignoring it. If you see areas of real sin in your husband’s life, it needs to be addressed. But address it prayerfully, carefully, humbly, with a spirit of grace… he needs to understand that you ultimately desire his good! There are also times when feeling angry is absolutely fine – but in your anger, do not sin!! Even when justifiably angry, you are still responsible for your words and actions.
*I know that there are many marriages that end with one party not wanting the divorce. If this is the case for you, please don’t read this post as judgment. But even in that case… I believe that you have a responsibility to truly forgive him, to pray faithfully for him, to speak of and treat him with respect, to seek his good.
* Finally, this post is not intended to deal with abusive situations. TRI-R ministries has a booklet entitled “Submission: Are There Limits?” which you can order here.
They point out that Scriptural submission is voluntary, is ultimately done unto God, has limits, and allows for petition. Scriptural submission pictures the righteous relationship between Christ and the church.
Victimization is involuntary, is done in the fear of man, has no limits, and pictures Satan’s relationship with his subjects.
Codependency is a response learned as a means to feel needed and self-sacrificing. It allows women who fear petition and confrontation to avoid it. Based on fear and insecurity, it is pictured in the relationship of God and the wicked servant with one talent (Matt. 25:24-29)
If you feel that you are being victimized, or that you are in an unhealthy codependent relationship, please seek professional Christian counseling.
This post is also linked to Marriage Mondays over at Come, Have a Peace! For more encouragement in your marriage, check it out here!
Proverbs 31 graphic from A Pondering Heart
Now, it’s your turn! We want to hear from you… what commitments are you making to your husband to start fresh in 2010?