I was fuming.
Boiling, you might say.
After praying for days about it, I finally brought things up with my husband at what I hoped was a good time, and in an honorable way. Yeah, he had some stuff to own up to—and to his credit, he did.
But I always seem to be surprised by something else: my own contribution to the mess I was so hot-under-the collar over. I’d been so arrested by my anger that any contributions of my own felt extremely minor; negligible, even.
Truth was, those “negligible” contributions were significant factors in what was broken between us.
It reminded me of something one of my favorite authors once said, which deeply marked me:
We underestimate the impact our sin has on other people.
There is no place I witness this more than in my own marriage. (Though maybe my parenting will expose itself in a few years.)
And we’ve witnessed this on our own, right? Our teenagers flinging out long, curling whips of words, their sting hardening into scars. Our younger children casually scattering attitudes that leave us weary for days, then seasons. Our spouses repeating the same, hurtful patterns, creating rifts the length of years. The acts of friends or peers that have left us callous, untrusting, and changed.
And all of these remain—except for the consistent renewing, softening acts of Christ.
Is it possible there’s a way out from inflicting the oblivious harm we receive from each other?
Now, before this post gets to be too much of a downer…the point is simply that as easy as it is to flick that lone index finger toward our spouse as The Offender—or even declare our marriages as delightfully healthy—it’s worth taking a stroll in our spouse’s shoes for awhile.
We just don’t realize how much our flippant comments, our “little white” actions or moments of obliviousness, even our willingly-kept scars and unforgivenesses, leave a wake.
Maybe this is as sobering to you as it was, and is, to me.
Consider, for the space of a week, praying through verses like these:
- “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” -1 Corinthians 4:4
- “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” –Jeremiah 17:9
- “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin?'” –Proverbs 20:9
- “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” -Psalm 139:23-24
Our sin doesn’t have to render us blind.
But where do we go from here? Does it mean we tighten up ship, grow hyper-aware and hyper-paranoid of our faults?
Nope. Maybe it sounds cliché, but—it means we live at the foot of the Cross: that place of realizing our depravity, and simultaneously at the single Source of power for changing us from the inside out. We own up 100% to the words we spewed out and the heart they came from, our laziness in caring for our spouse, our self-righteousness. Our desire to blame-shift, or deny, or hide loosens. And yet, we find we are inexplicably, and utterly…loved. Our desire to reconcile and restore what we’ve taken from others heightens. We are secure and free of fear in a manner that exceeds any natural understanding; we’re more open, less pretentious, and fitted with a longer fuse.
It’s also the place where we can at last unshoulder the tremendous weight of pain others have inflicted on us, that molded itself corrosively to our shoulders, our hearts, our reactions. We can forgive, as many times and ways as the offense bubbles to the surface.
Yes, we leave a smoldering, smoking path behind us, wider than we know. But it’s one that, in the hand of God, can bring something breathtakingly beautiful from what used to be only ashes.
If you find memories like these still too fresh and swollen to revisit them through a healthy lens, take time to pray—and possibly visit a counselor—to help you address the past that is part of your story.
I’m totally #thatmom–the one diving into all the weirdness with my kids, sidestepping a few eyerolls. After five and a half years in Uganda, my family and I have returned to the U.S., where I write and speak professionally, and we continue to work on behalf of the poor.