Give Your Spouse the Gift of Grace this Season
- 2005 8 Dec
Christmas is the perfect season to live out the precious gift Jesus gave us: Forgiveness. In this life, it's guaranteed you will make mistakes, disappoint one another and make some poor decisions. This is especially true in our marriages. The only way to keep any relationship growing in the midst of our humanity is to forgive. The apostle Paul gave us a staggering challenge in the area of forgiveness: "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Colossians 3:13)
As beautiful as this sounds in Scripture, the concept of forgiveness gets rather complicated in every day life. When we are wronged, emotions run high. We may want to forgive, but feel incapable. Or we may think we have forgiven, only to catch ourselves stewing weeks or even years later. A few situations like this, and we start to feel as though genuine forgiveness in marriage is an impossible feat.
To make forgiveness practical for the average person, Pam and I designed the following six statements as a practical way to work through the forgiveness God calls us to. If you can sincerely say all six statements for a specific infraction, you have accomplished forgiveness. The six statements are:
1. I forgive (name of person) for (offense that was committed).
2. I admit that what was done was wrong.
3. I do not expect (name of person) to make up for what he/she has done.
4. I will not define (name of person) by what he/she has done. (Instead I will define him/her as someone who needs just as much grace in life as I do)
5. I will not manipulate (name of person) with what he/she has done.
6. I will not allow what has happened to stop my personal growth.
In a recent message, Andy Stanley said that forgiveness is like listing all the things the offending party has done to you, then stamping it with "Debt Paid in Full." It is writing on the list of grievances, "You don’t owe me."i It’s very hard, but very freeing to say to God, "They don’t owe me an explanation. They don’t owe me an apology. They don’t owe me any restoration."
Now you may be thinking, "I just don't know if I can do this. The hurt in our marriage is too great." Before you get discouraged, remember -- forgiveness is frequently a process -- not just a one-time event. It may take time. If you find yourself slipping backwards, keeping score, or playing the blame game, prayerfully walk through this process again and renew your commitment to forgiving completely. When we are capable of forgiveness, we are free to move forward in life and forward in all our relationships.
The Process of Reconciliation
While forgiveness is primarily a vertical, private act between you and God, reconciliation is a horizontal act between two people who have been separated by a hurt or grievance. Reconciliation works best when both people have already walked through the Six Statements of Forgiveness. In reconciliation, the relationship has greater opportunity to be restored if the offending party (and remember, it usually takes two to tango) comes to the offended and says, "I am sorry. Please forgive me. What can I do to make things right again?"
Often, "making it right again" includes an explanation, an apology, and a restitution of some kind that is freely offered by the offender. The key to success in this tangled and emotionally charged process of restoration is that each of us forgives the other completely, not because anyone asks, but because Christ forgave us. Forgiveness protects your integrity and your heart, and allows for genuine, lasting reconciliation.
Another important factor in the reconciliation process: we each must freely own our issues. This is not the time to rationalize, blame others, or duck your guilt. A truly repentant person will say, "I am sorry. What I did was wrong. Here’s why it was wrong. Please forgive me. What can I do to help set things right again?" Then he will close his mouth and listen intently and from the heart. It’s all about grace – grace between you and your spouse flowing from the overabundance of God’s supernatural grace. When you grasp how much God loves you, then extending grace and unconditional love to others becomes a little easier.
So what symbolic gift can you give this holiday to express your forgiveness or your desire to be forgiven and to reconcile?
One man gave his wife a new watch with a note, "It’s ‘time’ that I tell you how sorry I am." A mother gave her prodigal child a broom with the verse, "I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. . . " (Isaiah 44:22). I forgive you, I love you, I am so glad God gave you to be my child." Now it's your turn. What gift off grace can you bestow?
i Andy Stanley’s message at CBA June 2004
For more articles on growing closer to God and your family this season, check out Crosswalk.com's special Christmas section.
This article was adapted from: Every Marriage is a Fixer Upper (Harvest House Publishers).
Pam and Bill Farrel are international speakers and the authors of over 20 books including best-selling Men are like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti and their newest, Every Marriage is a Fixer Upper. For more information on their books and ministry: 800-810-4449 or http://farrelcommunications.com.