I was reading Galatians 6 this morning, and verse 3 leaped out at me: “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
It is in the context of exhorting each other as Christians, bearing each other’s burdens to fulfill the law of Christ, but also follows shortly after a warning to keep watch on yourself that you not fall into temptation while restoring others.
This verse encapsulates something which has been the major factor in rejuvenating my marriage relationship with Marla, and which has been the primary reason I have seen other marriages completely fall apart even after the couples have learned the principles of Openness and Brokenness at a Whatever It Takes! conference. Now, even seven years after I first came clean with my wife regarding the hidden sin in my life and started on the path to true brokenness, I truly do not consider myself worthy of her forgiveness. When I do something that triggers an old hurt or memory, or when I see her feeling the pain from my years of infidelity, I never (to the best of my knowledge) respond with, “You said you forgave me years ago – can’t you just forget it?” Instead, I remind myself once again that her pain, her reaction, is rooted in my sin, and that it is only by the grace of God that Marla is still my wife and truly loves me more than ever. Sin has consequences, and even after forgiveness the consequences continue. If I had contracted AIDS from a prostitute, I might have received forgiveness, but the consequence would be an ongoing, devastating reminder of my sin.
All too often when I talk to a man who is trying to restore a marriage after either confessing or getting caught in his moral failure I hear something like, “Why can’t she just forgive me? She keeps bringing it up!” First off, that’s not a question a man walking in brokenness would ask. Instead, the broken response is to take responsibility for her pain/anger/depression/whatever, pray with her, and look for ways to love her as Christ loved the church. Unbroken men have asked me things like, “How much dirt do I need to let her pile on top of me?!?” My response is, “How much abuse did Jesus Christ allow to be heaped on His head to pay the price for our sins?” Jesus loved us by taking full responsibility for all of our sins, even though He had done absolutely nothing wrong. There have been glorious times when I have taken responsibility for a pain point in Marla’s life, and she has actually blessed me by saying, “No, that’s not your fault!”
If you truly want to walk in brokenness, get rid of the idea that you deserve anything other than DEATH! Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” No one owes you forgiveness – it is a gift by God’s grace. You can’t demand it, or even expect it. “But,” you say, “the Bible teaches that as a Christian she needs to forgive me, not seven times but seventy times seven times.” True. But That’s between your wife and God – if you throw that scripture up in her face, you are taking the place of a holy, perfect God instead of loving her. If you are truly walking in brokenness, there are very few women who can resist giving you the forgiveness you don’t deserve. Once again, you deserve to suffer the consequences of your sin, you deserve to have your wife leave you to mope about in your miserable, prideful existence, and any kindness or forgiveness you receive should be viewed as a blessing.
I know without a shadow of a doubt that if I were to start expecting Marla to forgive me, and to forget the pain I have caused in her life, that our marriage would cease to exist. We might still live in the same house, but there would be no marriage. As an aside, forgiveness does not include forgetting anything. The Bible says that we will be called into account for every idle word we have spoken. God doesn’t forget anything – He chooses not to remember. So, how much less can my wife forget my sins?
Ponder Galatians 6:3. Do you think you are something? A big man (or woman – I speak in biblical terms) who has been gracious enough to dump a load of garbage on his wife by confessing all his hidden sin, then walked away and thought himself open and broken while she suffocates under the pile of junk you dropped on her? If so, and you truly think you deserve forgiveness, and to have all things just put aside, then you are deceiving yourself. Man up, take responsibility, and realize that you will be dealing with consequences for the rest of your life! If it is less time than that, then be blessed, but never, ever, expect the consequences to just go away.
May the peace, joy, and love of Christ abound in your life!