A Grace-Filled Marriage
- Thursday, September 23, 2004
I was late for a meeting early one morning. The church music team met each Tuesday at 6 a.m. for prayer and planning, and I always had trouble arriving on time. Once again I had not left in enough time. I jumped into a car we had borrowed from my parents while one of our vehicles was being repaired. In rushing to get to the meeting on time, I exceeded the speed limit. As I approached the church, I noticed the red lights behind my car.
I pulled into the church parking lot and stopped. The officer approached the car and asked if I was aware that I had been traveling 45 mph in a 35 mph zone. I explained that I was in a hurry and I was rushing rather than watching my speed.
He asked for my driver's license. I turned to get my purse and realized that in my hurry I had only grabbed my notebook. I had no driver's license in my possession. I apologized to him and explained that I must have left it at home in the hurry to get out the door.
He then asked for my vehicle registration papers. I searched everywhere I could think of to find the vehicle registration papers in my mother's car. I couldn't locate them anywhere. Once again I sheepishly turned to the officer and explained that I was borrowing my mother's car and I couldn't find her registration papers. I explained that I was sure they were there somewhere, I just didn't know where.
By this time, I was prepared to have the book thrown at me. My thoughts tumbled one after the other...At the rate I'm going, this is going to cost a fortune in tickets. He could probably even take me in, if he wanted to. He could have the car towed and suspend my license. What have I done here? I braced myself for the consequences that would be administered.
The officer paused for a moment and then said, "It's not worth it. Have a good day and please drive slower." He turned and got back in his car and drove away.
I stood next to my car, frozen with unbelief. I couldn't believe it. I deserved punishment. I should have had to suffer the consequences of my wrongdoings. But that officer determined to let it go. He acted as if it never happened. He offered me grace.
Grace is a relatively undiscussed and unknown term in our society. We hear a lot about justice, fairness, and legalities, but we don't often hear about grace. Grace is closely related to forgiveness. It is choosing to let people's mistakes rest in the past. It is giving space to be human.
In fact, we've coined a term at our home: grace space. Grace space is simply allowing one another to make mistakes, to be human. It is about not expecting perfection. It is responding with love rather than shame. It is allowing a child to make a mistake and learn from the consequences. It's about responding with forgiveness when our spouse doesn't do something the way we think they should have done it. It is life-giving. It is hope-filled. It is building into lives rather than tearing them down.
Husbands and wives have the opportunity to give words of life (grace) or words of death (criticism) to one another. Our words either bring a smile to the face, or a punch in the stomach. The old phrase "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me," is simply not true. Words and the tones of our words speak volumes to those we love.
When I look at the mess our marriage was in several years ago, a big part of our problem is that Mark and I operated out of criticism rather than grace. We flung critical words freely to one another. Words and attitudes of criticism hurt and damaged our relationship.
Now, ten years later we have transformed our relationship. Sure there is still conflict at times, but we handle it with love and grace now. More often than not, I think we've both learned to keep our mouth shut when we don't have something nice to say or when we know our anger will do damage.
I know I want our home to be a bit of a haven, a place to find rest, affirmation, and encouragement. Grace is what will make that happen. I want my children to live in a home that encourages individuality, competency, and contentment. I want them to see me speak loving words to their father. Grace is what it will take.
That police officer offered me grace. God offers all of us grace. Let us continue the process and give grace a place in our home.
Jill Savage (www.jillsavage.org) is the founder and director of Hearts at Home (www.hearts-at-home.org). She is the author of three books including Professionalizing Motherhood and Is There Really Sex After Kids? Jill and her husband Mark live in Normal, Illinois with their five children ranging in age from eight to nineteen.
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