Foundational Attribute of a Strong Marriage: Forgiveness

forgive_meContinued from here.

Another lie that society has sold us is that the most important attribute of a good marriage is communication. While communication is certainly important, it doesn’t come close to a much more important attribute that is foundational to all strong marriages: forgiveness.

On her television show, Enjoying Everyday Life, Joyce Meyer recently said something profound: “When we decide to continue in a relationship with someone, we decide in advance to forgive.” A relationship doesn’t work when you are tallying up a mental list of everything that your spouse has done wrong. For relationships to flourish, we need to prioritize the relationship over “being right,” and that means forgiveness.

Let me share an amusing example: On our honeymoon, my husband learned that I have a tendency to forget to bring food home from a restaurant. A local pizza place was having a buy one, get one free sale on pizza. After sharing one pizza, I sat at the table with an untouched, freshly boxed pizza while he went to pay the bill. When he waved for me to join him, I left the entire pizza sitting on the table. He was not pleased later in the evening when he looked for the pizza to snack on and discovered its absence. Meanwhile, the pizza had not once crossed my mind all evening.

That happened almost 25 years ago, and we have numerous other similar stories to share. I don’t do this on purpose. I have no idea why I am apparently incapable of transporting food home from a restaurant, but no matter how hard I try to remember, I forget at least half the time. Nevertheless, my husband has never gotten angry with me about this. While I am sure he finds this trait annoying, he has decided in advance to forgive me, so this annoying tendency of mine has never once caused a marital conflict. While my husband has every reason to be frustrated with me over this, he has chosen to let go of his frustration, no matter how many times I mess up, because he values our relationship over the food.

If you want a happy marriage, it’s time to let some things go. Extend grace to your spouse. He or she is never going to be perfect, and that’s OK – neither are you. If you will both cut each other some slack and extend grace, you will be amazed by how much happier you are. After all, if the purpose of marriage is holiness, these annoying situations provide us with ample opportunity to practice Christlikeness as we forgive our spouse in the same way that Jesus forgives us.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding a flower and asking, “Forgive me?” Courtesy of Bitmoji.]

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Did I Marry the Right Person?

marriageContinued from here.

Another one of society’s lies that too many in the Church have believed is that marital problems come from marrying the wrong person, so the solution is to break your marital covenant and find someone more compatible. If this were true, then the divorce rates of second marriages would not be higher than those of first marriages. Nevertheless, this myth persists, breaking apart what God has joined together and destroying families in the process.

Remember the powerful sermon on marriage I heard on my road trip? This pastor also said, “How do you know you married the right person? Because he or she said, ‘yes.’” When your spouse said, “yes,” to you on your wedding day and you said, “yes,” in return, God took two separate beings and made them one. That makes your spouse “the right person,” regardless of how you might feel about this.

I used to wonder whether I deviated from God’s plan for me in who I married because I was in a season of rebellion when my husband and I met and married. I never once prayed about whether he was the man God intended for me – I honestly did not care whether he was or not.

My husband and I are different in many ways. His perfect evening is watching a Carolina basketball game, and I am lucky to know that basketball is the sport where they dribble a ball and shoot it at a hoop. My perfect evening is dinner and a movie, but my husband doesn’t like to go to the movies. As the “newness” of our marriage waned, I became acutely aware of our differences.

Several months ago, God showed me that my husband is indeed the one He planned for me all along. I asked my husband how he came to regular church attendance in college when his family did not take him to church after grade school. He shared that no matter which dorm he was assigned, he happened to be placed on a hall surrounded by Christians who invited him to church and other religious functions. Then, God reminded me that as a teenager, I had prayed for my future spouse. Even while I was in a season of rebellion, God honored those prayers to prepare a Christian husband for me. Talk about faithfulness!

While it is true that my husband and I are different in many areas, God has shown me that this makes us complementary. Our son does not need carbon copy parents. As a parenting team, our differences actually provide our son with a much richer family. And then we have similarities in the places that matter, the most important of which is loving the LORD.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace standing by a tree with “Me + U 4ever” carved into it. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Marriage is about HOLINESS, not Happiness

Continued from here.

Before I move on to the next stage of my transformation journey, I’d like to share more of what I have learned about living marriage God’s way. I fear that many couples within the Church have bought into society’s views of marriage, which may account for why the divorce rate among Christians is as high as it is (although see this article that notes a correlation between regular church attendance and a lower divorce rate).

God led me to Gary Thomas’ writings and the epiphany that happiness is not the point of marriage, which is the lie that society tells us. Society portrays marriage as the prince saving the damsel in distress, and then they live happily ever after. But what if the goal of marriage isn’t actually happiness, but holiness?

I heard a fabulous sermon on the radio during a road trip, but I don’t know who to credit. The pastor said these wise words: “If the person you are married to is ‘bad’ enough that Jesus had to die for his or her sins, then your spouse is going to annoy you from time to time.” Oh, the truth in those words … and it works both ways! Marriage yokes us to an imperfect person who … let’s face it … is selfish, just as we, at our cores, are also selfish. The damsel doesn’t want to clean up the prince’s dirty clothes off the floor – she wants him to meet her needs and keep her happy, regardless of her own selfishness.

God has shown my through Gary Thomas’ writings and Alex Kendrick’s and Stephen Kendrick’s book, The Love Dare, that marriage works best when I allow God to transform me into Christ’s image as I put my husband’s needs ahead of my own. Being married actually helps with the sanctification process because I have numerous opportunities to pay forward the unconditional love that God has given me. Because we are yoked together, I am more aware of my husband’s shortcomings than anyone else in the world (just as he is with mine), which puts me in a unique position to pray for him so God can intervene in places that nobody else sees.

I have also learned that God meant it when he said that a married couple is “one flesh.” When I am unconditionally loving to my husband, that love empowers me! Conversely, when I seek to harm my husband, that harm is inflicted upon me. Therefore, because you are one, God only needs one of you to submit to His authority (to actually do what He says to do) to heal your marriage. Because the Holy Spirit is in you while you are one with your spouse, your choice to align yourself with God will change your marriage, regardless of your spouse’s attitude.

Don’t believe me? I dare you to do The Love Dare for 40 days and see what happens.

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[Graphic: Cover of Gary Thomas’ book, Sacred Marriage.]