The week before Easter was so painful that I could not even open my Bible. My prayers seemed to be blocked. No praise, no supplication, no communication whatsoever got through. My mind was a jumbled mess of static that simply could not reach out to God. Every time I walked past my Bible on the kitchen table, I felt a moment of compulsion to open it, followed by a sense of futility. I simply could (would) not hear God. The only voice I could hear clearly was my own, convincing me of my justifiable pain and suffering at the hand of my husband. Oh, woe was me.
Then it happened. In the car, running errands, God spoke. “Daughter,” he clearly impressed on my heart. “Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. I died for you. I forgave you before you were born. You need to forgive your husband and stop being a jerk.”
I realized with no small amount of shame that the static in my head had been the byproduct of my lack of forgiveness toward my husband. I had been blaming him for everything, and justifying my responses. I was part of the problem we were having, not just for the past week, but for the past 32 years.
God opened my eyes to the agonizing fact that I have not forgiven my husband for past offenses. Instead, each new offense has been compounded, coupling like dilapidated rail cars limping down what should have been a long-abandoned track. And here I was on the eve of Easter Sunday. I would be going to church to celebrate the most glorious event in the history of the planet, the substitutionary forgiveness of the sins of the human race. Which includes my unforgiveness toward my husband, my pride, my need to be right, my arrogance, my self-centeredness, and my unwillingness to cherish this good man who, for all of his flaws, is the person I chose to covenant with forever. The weight of the shame was almost unbearable. But the weight of the relief lifted me high above the shame. I opened my Bible, falling on Psalm 143: “Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my pleas for mercy!” The Psalmist is pleading to hear from God because the enemy of his soul is crushing him to the ground.
I have only one enemy, who has worked very hard to destroy my marriage. But God, who is faithful, merciful, tender, loving, steadfast, and just, wants my marriage to bear fruit for his Kingdom. That’s why he created it. My husband is not my enemy. He is my ally and friend. He is my groom, and my protector. He is my mate and my partner, “my vineyard, my very own…” (Song of Solomon 8:12), who I promised to love and to cherish until death separates us.
God’s supernatural intervention is painful. It slays our natural inclinations, opening wounds that he then heals with the stinging balm of his love. Yet it leaves no scars. Only sweet, pure healing. The only scars involved are the ones that Christ bears.
On Easter Sunday, like every Easter Sunday, we sang the wonderful Charles Wesley hymn, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” But on this Easter, the verses took on fresh meaning:
Soar we now where Christ hath led,
Following our exalted Head,
Made like Him, like Him we rise,
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!
After church, I asked for my husband’s forgiveness and offered him mine. I told him all that God had shown me the day before. The stinging balm was doing its work. God brought to my mind all of the reasons I married my husband in the first place. Those memories had been lost in the fog of my unforgiveness. Suddenly, dramatically, every dilapidated rail car was derailed, and I finally abandoned the old track.
Gary Thomas, in his book Cherish, writes,
Fight bitterness with intellectual focus-you will think about [your spouse’s] excellent qualities and talk to yourself about your [spouse’s] excellent qualities instead of listening to yourself fret over [their] inadequacies. If you do that, contempt will slowly give way to cherish.
Gary Thomas also points out that this is not a “one-time deal.” I will need to pray daily for new mercies, fresh insights, and the strength to garner humility over my inclination toward pride. This is a strength only God can provide, through his resurrection power and his vast love for us and for marriage.