The husband had really messed up and he knew it. He sat there with his eyes downcast as he told his story. His wife had a real right to be hurt, angry and upset. But his story was not just a defensive explanation by someone who got caught in his misdeeds. It was a raw revelation of early pain, mistreatment and trauma that had been locked away for years. As he finished his story his wife put her hand on his arm and with tears in her eyes said “None of those things should have ever happened to you. You didn’t deserve any of it.” He broke down in tears and began apologizing in honest heartfelt words.
The above story is not one person’s story – but a composite of many that we have witnessed. The offenders have been both wives and husbands, men and women. But it does not always go so well. Sometimes the pain of the offense is too great to let go of in the moment. Sometimes the defensive walls are up too high to scale. But when there are soft hearts on both sides, the atmosphere is ripe for a relationship miracle.
Romans 2:4 “Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”
I love the above scripture. Perhaps I can rework it to fit what I am trying to communicate.
“Do you not know that a spouse’s kindness can lead to their partner’s repentance?”
Kindness is grace in action. In situations like the one described it is an undeserved gift. It becomes an opportunity to radically change a marriage. But I need to add, it requires true sincerity and real change. It must not perpetuate a cycle of abuse or other sinful behaviors. You are not “off the hook.” Grace is not an unlimited “get out of jail free” card. Repentance means to “turn away from” – in this case, from the hurtful and harmful behavior.
How does an offended spouse choose to offer kindness in place of anger or rejection? It does not seem like a normal human reaction, and it isn’t. The most common reaction would be to pull back or strike back in pain, disgust or fear. I would say that it is only for the love of God that we can achieve this. If we truly understand our own failings that God has forgiven, we are more likely to be able to offer it to others.
Forgiveness is much easier for small offences, the ones that don’t affect our lives in any major way. When a serious one comes our way, that is when the strength of our faith and the softness of our heart is on the line. Yes, sometimes we have to pull back first and absorb the wound and work with ourselves with God and others. But if we can first forgive and then go and confront those who have hurt us, we are much more likely to offer kindness instead of shame or blame. Can you do that? For the love of God?