Last week, Molly Hilbert stopped by to share with us 5 things she’s learned in her first year of marriage. She was brutally honest and gave us some good things to think about. If you missed it, I hope you’ll click here to read that post. Whether you are married, or looking forward to marriage, I think you’ll find that Molly’s insights can be an encouragement.
I know you’ll be blessed to hear her share some more personal moments with us . . . so, here is my dear friend, Molly ~
This post covers two more things that I’ve learned (and am continuing to learn) this past first year of marriage. It is my prayer that my honesty will exhort and encourage you in your own life and/or marriage. This post may be a little more sobering and a little less comical than the last one, just because of the subjects that it addresses: sin and forgiveness. I also realize that I address this from the perspective of someone who is married to a believer; I understand that your situation may be different, and it is my hope and prayer that you will seek the help you need and it may come from those who are wiser than myself. I hope that you will interact with me on the contents of this post; I would love to continue this conversation with you!
If you missed 1—5 you can find them by clicking here.
- I need to be the first to ask forgiveness.
I am going to be really honest here. I can be a pretty stubborn person. When Matt offends me, hurts me, or sins against me, there is something selfishly satisfying about holding that sin against him, about feeling as though I have “one-upped” him; he owes me something because he has hurt me. While I am not dismissing sin in marriage or the fact that Matt and I have both legitimately hurt each other, not just in this past first year of marriage but in times throughout our entire relationship, I am simply saying that to hold that sin against your spouse in bitterness is itself a sin. When Matt and I have a disagreement, it is easy for me to feel as though I am the one in the right, I am the only one who has been hurt, and he is the one who needs to ask me for forgiveness
I have been guilty of this numerous times in this past first year and have consequently been convicted of my own sin. “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). These are Jesus’ own words to us and describe the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation between our “brothers” – which refers to any of our brothers and sisters in Christ, including our spouse.
This is so important that Christ does not even want us to come to offer Him our gifts (which can also refer to our gifts of worship and praise) without first being reconciled to the one we have an offense with. Christ so values our bond and relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ (including our spouse) that He does not even want us to come to Him with our gifts if there is something between us and another one of His children. This is the heart of Christ, and this should be our heart, as well, as His followers.
Does this mean that I should be a push-over, constantly asking forgiveness and never confronting sin in my spouse? No, I believe that as a wife it is one of my responsibilities to help confront sin in my husband’s life and exhort and encourage him to overcome it, speaking the truth to him in love (Ephesians 4:15). As Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up.” Part of this “building one another up” includes lovingly and gently pushing each other to Christ and His righteousness.
Does this mean that we should always respond to disagreements with our spouse in humility and a spirit of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18)?
Yes, as difficult and against the grain of our selfish, sinful hearts as it is, YES! I wish with all my heart that I could say that this is how I have responded to all disagreements and arguments with my husband, but I am often too selfish and bitter to do this. I have had victories, and by God’s grace I know that I will have many more, but this heart attitude goes against the sin of my flesh. It is often a challenge to be the first to ask forgiveness, but it is Christ’s heart and desire that we be reconciled to our spouse; more often than not, that means being the first to humbly and genuinely ask for forgiveness for the sin that you have committed against them. Remember, God holds them accountable for the sin that they may have committed against you. You are only responsible for your own.
- My husband is not Jesus.
“Well, duh, of course your husband isn’t Jesus,” you may be thinking. I know that Matt is not Jesus, but it is incredible how often I place the pressures and expectations on him to be my “savior” and my “fulfillment.” When I look to Matt to be the one to save me from my depression, my anxiety, or even my loneliness, I make him the “god” of my life. When I seek Matt to fulfill the place in myself that feels worthless or meaningless, I seek him to be my identity, something that only Jesus can fulfill. Or – more honesty here – when I confess my sins to Matt and he forgives me and makes me feel better about the wrong I have done but I do not go to Jesus with these sins, I am making him Jesus in my life. His convictions begin to become mine; his forgiveness begins to supersede Christ’s; his affirmations fuel my identity rather than the words of Christ. When these things begin to happen – when my husband becomes more important to me than Jesus – I place an unnecessary and impossible expectation on him to be Jesus in my life. This is not fair to him nor is it right before God. When God tells us that we should have no other gods before Him (Exodus 20:3), He is not just speaking of gold or silver images or false gods; He is speaking of anything that we replace Him with or put before Him.
My husband is not Jesus. This also means that my husband is not perfect as Jesus is perfect. My husband is a sinner, as I am a sinner. He will sin just as I will sin. When I married Matt, I married a sinner; when he said “I do” to me, he also committed himself for life to a sinner.
This goes back to my first point that forgiveness is so necessary and crucial to a healthy marriage relationship. For the rest of our lives, we will be forgiving each other and asking forgiveness of each other. This is just the way that it will be while we are still living in our flesh, awaiting the return of Jesus to make us perfect and whole. “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
Oh, what hope there is in this truth, that “what we will be has not yet been made known”! He is not finished with us yet (Philippians 1:6). Though we have been redeemed and forgiven in Christ, we are in the process of being sanctified (Hebrews 10:14). He has made us blameless before Him (Colossians 1:21-22), but we are not yet perfect and still battle with sin daily just as Paul did after he had been converted and saved (Romans 7:21-25).
We cannot forget that our spouse is a sinner just as we are. Matt may battle different sins than I do, but that does not make my sins any less hurtful or evil against him and against the Lord. As I stated in the previous point, the heart of Jesus is that we be reconciled; often, this means being the first to ask forgiveness for the sin and hurt that I have caused.
Forgiveness will be a continual part of any marriage relationship because neither you nor your spouse are perfect; neither of you are Jesus. To believe that your spouse is perfect is to place an impossible expectation and pressure on them that can never be fulfilled.
What have you learned about forgiveness in your own marriage? How have you wrongly made your spouse “Jesus” in your life and marriage? I would love to hear from you!