My husband and I have been married almost 19 years. We dated for seven years before we finally took the plunge. I don’t recommend the extended dating program, it’s just a part of our story. After over 26 years together, one thing is certain. We have had our fair share of disagreements, hurts, disappointments, and just plain adjusting to living with another person who doesn’t do life the way you do.
I love my husband up to the moon. He is funnier than most people know and makes me laugh from the belly most days. He is sweet and truly thoughtful. He serves quietly without needing attention or applause. He has compassion for the hurting and a tender way of approaching difficult situations. My husband is wise and sees deeply into situations, but he won’t force his insights on anyone. They have to ask and listen to what he has to say. I’ve learned volumes from living all these years in his presence. We balance one another and we challenge one another. He’s my friend and my love and I wouldn’t trade him for anything this world has to offer.
That being said, sometimes we get into struggles in our relationship. Our children can throw things into the mix. We feel stressed from the day-to-day demands of work and running a home. He needs space and downtime and sometimes doesn’t get those needs met living at the pace life tends to go around here. I need a balance of personal space and time with friends. Sometimes I go way too long without either and I feel edgy and sensitive. Besides that, I’m the only female in this house – unless you count our tortoise and I usually don’t since there’s not a lot of girlfriend camaraderie going on in that relationship. Don’t get me wrong, I love my tortoise … anyway … I can get burnt out living in the guys locker room. I crave someone who doesn’t think poop jokes are funny and who doesn’t think a meaningful conversation consists of one word answers.
All that adds up to a disagreement flaring up between me and my husband over seemingly insignificant things at times. Among the many things I appreciate about our marriage, I am grateful that we have always been good about not letting the sun go down on our anger. We come back together, apologize and move towards reconciliation the same day we have done something to hurt one another. Tonight was one of those situations. We were sitting down after a long Sunday full of church, a lunch out, chores around the home to get ready for a road trip and then a ministry meeting at church followed by a drive-thru taco supper sitting in front of the TV to unwind. Something came on the TV I didn’t want our littlest to see and we were fumbling to get the controls to work to get the show to forward past the scene. Tension mounted between our oldest son, my husband and me and the volume went up (not on the TV, in the room). Some comments were made that were hurtful and I retreated to our bedroom to cool off and feel sorry for myself. In the heat of the moment I wanted to blast my husband with some really cunning comebacks. I restrained myself. I’m not a saint, so don’t nominate me to the Pope or anything. I just have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to follow Jesus in the day-to-day life of our family.
What does it look like to walk by the Spirit and not in the flesh in my home?
One thing it doesn’t mean: taking an opportunity to slice down the ones I love with my quick wit turned fierce in a moment of anger. I needed that “time out.” I had to regroup with Jesus. This is what my prayer time sounded like:
Me: “I’m so mad right now. I want to give him a piece of my mind.”
God: “Mmmm hmmm. That’s not in line with what I ask of you.”
Me: “What you ask is impossible for me. I’m so mad I can’t do it. I just can’t turn this around and be nice when I want to teach him a lesson. I know what you want. I just can’t.”
God: “Unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Hasn’t that been your prayer lately?”
Me: “Yes. Yes it has.”
God: “… and you want to follow me.”
Me: “Yes. I do. I want to follow you with all my heart.”
God: “Then you’ll have to do the hard things. You have to not let the sun go down on your anger and not give the devil an opportunity here. I died for your sins. You can’t hold this sin against him.”
Me: “I know, but I’m still so flaming mad. I just can’t forgive him. You are going to have to move a mountain here to soften my hard heart.”
And so it went, with God encouraging me forward. I don’t hear an audible voice when I pray like that, but I hear the thoughts that are not my own – the conversational answers which are nudges pushing me towards what is right. I know in my spirit – the Holy Spirit lives in me and whispers these encouragements. Then I see clearly I am the one who must forgive first. I must be the one to say “I’m sorry.” Triple ugh. I’m not sure why it is so hard to do this one simple thing and say those two little words. I’d rather do just about anything else, but I go. I think of Jesus and I tuck my tail and I approach my husband and say, “I’m sorry I contributed to the tension we went through. I shouldn’t have raised my voice and I know I added to the problem.” He apologizes too.
We’ve turned back toward one another. That’s a promise I’ve been making lately: I will always turn back towards you. I will turn towards the ones I love because Jesus turns towards me.
Sometimes I have to turn to God first – often I do. It takes going to God so He can get me straightened out, then I can turn towards my husband (or whomever) instead of holding onto the hot coal of anger and keeping my heart hardened against both God and them.
Tonight my husband and I shut the door to Satan and left it open to one another. We gave God room to move between us. We chose Him and it wasn’t easy. It feels like swimming upstream when your heart is full of what feels like justified anger. Still, we walked in what we knew was right despite the powerful pull of our hurt emotions. In the process we taught our boys what it looks like to hang on instead of caving in. We showed them that real marriages go through real conflicts and then stand strong and fight to get back to one another because that’s what love does.
Love fights for the relationship, not against it.
Love fights for the beloved even if it means tucking our tails and being the first to say, “I’m sorry.”