Marriage is tested every single day because of sins we commit and mistakes we make. I wrote about this here using the characters Hinderella and Prince Harming to describe it. Yes, Joe and I have hindered one another’s spiritual and personal growth. Yes, we have harmed each other with our words and actions. The only reason we are still married is because we forced ourselves to forgive.
Understanding the power of forgiveness begins with understanding the birth of Jesus. He was born so that we could personally know and feel God’s forgiveness. THIS IS WHY JESUS WAS BORN. A genuine celebration of his birth should include the gift of forgiveness, not just tangible gifts that can be wrapped in paper.
How awful it would be if God held our sins against us, kept a list of them, recounted to us all the ways we offended him and fell short of his righteousness. Yet this is what we often do with our spouses. I know I certainly did this to Joe. I could recount with precision literal dates when he offended me because I wrote about it in my journals. During my low moments when depression consumed my brain, the reel of Joe’s missteps or neglect ran through my mind constantly.
At the same time, however, the reel of my own mistakes ran through my mind too. And with that reel was the knowledge that I wanted to be forgiven. I wanted a fresh start with God and with my husband. I wanted to know that my human weakness was not an eternal death sentence. And because of forgiveness extended to me, I could extend it to Joe so our marriage would not be sentenced to death either.
One way I have chosen to symbolically renew my commitment to forgiveness is to wear a new white dress for our anniversary every year. This is a fun way to celebrate the day we gave our lives to each other with no clue how much we could hurt each other! But we are still together in spite of the hurt because forgiveness mattered more to us than keeping a record of wrongs.
There are certainly limits to how forgiveness plays out. I don’t intend to convey that any spouse should endure abuse and irresponsibility that causes irreparable damage to relationships or the children. What I am saying is that forgiveness is possible even if reconciliation is not.
For if you forgive men their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive men their sins, neither will your Father forgive your sins. Matthew 6.14-15