"Then Peter came and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven."--Matthew 18:21-22 "...as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive."--Col. 3:17b
"A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers."--Ruth Bell Graham
When we were first married, I thought I was a rather forgiving person. Forget to call home when you're late? No problem. Said something that came out wrong? I'll live.
But somehow, like Peter, I began to wonder, how many times do I need to forgive this guy? As the years go by, one or the other of us is bound to slip up or do something that hurts the other person. If your marriage is like mine, these things come up more and more often as we become more and more comfortable with one another.
When our youngest son Jonathan was born in 2008, unforgiveness undealt with began to wreak havoc in my life. First it was one little thing that irked me. I held onto it, fed it and dwelt on it. Being hormonal and sleep-deprived didn't help, but I know now that it wasn't an excuse. I made my choice.
With time, that little splinter began to fester and infect my heart towards my husband. What started out as a little thing grew into something ugly and monstrous. Instead of helping me look at my husband with eyes of forgiveness and love, I began to criticize every single thing he did. After still more time, it got to the point where nothing he did was right. I began to count sin against sin, and the unforgiveness grew ever deeper.
Amazingly, I still fooled myself into thinking that I was absolutely guilt-free in this whole ordeal. Just shows how close to God I really was. My heart was hard as flint, and I felt completely justified in my actions. At this rate, I was sure that my husband had far surpassed the seven offense limit that Peter mentioned.
Finally, it had gotten so bad that I knew I had dug myself into a deep pit. Even I knew that I was completely wrong. What gain I thought I had by harboring unforgiveness clearly was no longer a benefit. In fact, it was undermining and eroding our marriage.
Because of my unforgiveness, I had forgotten how much God had forgiven me. In my unforgiveness, I elevated myself above my husband and thought he was so far below me. When the Lord finally broke through to my hardened heart, He showed me how much I have also sinned against my husband by harboring an unforgiving heart.
Even if he did sin against me, is it my job to punish? Who made me the judge? In my own self-righteousness, I failed to recognize my own sin of pride and arrogance. By holding on to my anger, I gave Satan an opportunity to lead me down a very destructive road.
The hardest part for me is just simply to be honest with my husband when he has hurt me. I tend to just keep it suppressed inside, where it then begins to do all kinds of damage in our relationship. I am learning that I need to take that hurt to God first, venting and letting off steam with Him, instead of nursing my wounds on my own. When I let Him in, He is then able to help me to look at things in a different light...and even see my own contribution to the problem!
And then, by His grace, He then begins to loosen my grip on what I believe are my rights, so that I can receive the forgiveness He has given me. Only then am I able to then give the gift of forgiveness to my husband. When I realize how much He has forgiven me, I am humbled as I realize that now I need to turn around and give that back to my husband.
Unless we are perfect, we are likely going to irritate our husbands too. We will make mistakes. We will fail. And yes, we will even sin. (Shouldn't be too much of a surprise, right?) When we offer the gift of forgiveness liberally and graciously, we will be setting the stage when the tables are turned and we too are in need of forgiveness.
What are you nursing in your heart right now? Are you willing to begin the journey of letting it go, so that the Lord may shower on you His grace to forgive your husband? We cannot harbor grudges and bitterness without it affecting our own walk with God. Trust me, I know from personal experience. And in this relationship, where we are one with our husbands, unforgiveness will only end up biting us in the end. It's not worth it. Let it go. Give him the gift of forgiveness.
Like the quote by Ruth Graham Bell? You can find a downloadable printable version here that you can frame and put up as a reminder.