[From Julie] For those of you who are attending our small group and for those who are following along with us on the blog, we encourage you to explore the concept for this week really thoroughly. Make sure you read this chapter several times and discuss it with your spouse. If you don’t have the book listen to (or watch) the sermon on the Mars Hill Website or you can check out the Peasant Princess lesson that deals with much of the same material.
The main idea that we discussed this week can make or break your marriage. What do you do with the sin in your marriage? You will hurt each other, act selfishly, and damage your relationship. You are human and your spouse is human. The two of you added together does not equal less pain and injury. You can either chose to punish each other, hold grievances against each other and make your marriage a battle ground as you try to even the score or you can chose to forgive each other and let Jesus’ suffering on your behalf be enough to kill the sins in your marriage. This is huge!
Please be a forgiving spouse. It will change your marriage in a way that few things have the ability to. In this chapter of the book the Driscolls define forgiveness in a very practical way that involves describing what forgiveness is not. It’s good. Definitely read it. The one thing that defines forgiveness is loving despite sin. Wanting good for your spouse and being able to pray for him/her and letting go of the perceived right to hold your spouse’s wrongs against them. Forgiveness is incredibly hard and is only possible in the light of God’s love. It is a lifestyle. If you are married to a human being you will need to do a lot of forgiving.
When you chose not to forgive you open the door for bitterness. Once bitterness takes root it affects everyone and everything around you. Yes, you may have been wronged and your spouse may deserve your anger but when you chose the path of bitterness you allow that sin to overtake your life. Your children pay for it as they grow up in the battlefield of your home, your friends pay for it while they listen to you and watch you become a toxic person. You are not supportive of them or their marriages because all you can see is the negative. Your job suffers, your health suffers and Satan wins the war he is waging on your marriage. Don’t chose this path. For those of you who are in this place, don’t stay there. Seek help and start fixing things. It is possible with God. How else would a marriage ever be able to recover from an indiscretion, or an abuse, or an addiction issue, or a ground shaking lie. We know people who have overcome these things and have a marriage that is stronger than it was before the blow up. The truth is those couples did some hard work in recovery and rebuilding trust. They made the decision everyday to forgive, to say no to bitterness and to frequently ask each other for forgiveness.
When you are a couple who is willing to ask each other for forgiveness you open the door for grace to take up residence in your everyday life. You become more aware of how your actions and words affect your spouse. You also start to see things through their eyes and realize that you mess up a lot. When you know you mess up frequently and you are acknowledging that regularly you will be on the receiving end of a lot of forgiveness. Something about being more aware of your own need for forgiveness makes you a more forgiving spouse. You of course forgive your partner when they apologize because you are acutely aware of how much you need their forgiveness. As a bonus, a forgiving spouse is also an encouraging spouse. You recognize the effort your partner is putting into something that needs to be address and you comment on that. If you show me a couple who apologizes to each other easily, I’ll show you a couple that encourages and supports each other in the areas that they struggle. It will become second nature to work together as allies when you know each others deepest struggles and you know how badly your spouse wants to overcome those struggles.
Become a couple who embraces forgiveness and slams the door on bitterness. This is a regular thing. Just like the title of the chapter, take out your trash regularly before bitterness seeps in and stinks up the whole place.