Screwtape Letter to an Exhausted Mom

Today, please welcome Kelsey, who writes at Organizing Life with Littles. She shares a delightful post ala C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, regarding an exhausted mother.

Screwtape Letter to an Exhausted Mom--We need to fight back! My Dear Wormwood,

I was thrilled to hear you have been making progress with the mother.  You have a good lead, from what I hear.  She’s feels over-worked, unappreciated, and discouraged?  I’m so glad to hear it.  If you tread carefully, this can be a great opportunity.  With the kids waking her up every hour last night, we already have an advantage.  A tired Mom makes for a more emotional Mom, and an emotional Mom is a vulnerable one.

I do have a few tips.

First, aim your best efforts at her marriage.

As you know, we cannot do much with a unified marriage.  Luckily for us, a cranky and exhausted wife can do wonders to change that.  We must convince her that her husband is no longer the friend and ally she first married.  Instead, we must reveal every sin and selfish habit, especially drawing attention to his thoughtless actions (mal-intended or not) against her.

Sometimes it’s the less obvious things, things the husband doesn’t even realize, that we can use to offend her the most.  When he comes home from work and dumps his things on the counter nearest the door (instead of hanging his coat or putting away his keys), let her think of it as a direct assault on her work as a homekeeper.  When he treks mud in with his shoes, let her think it is because he does not love her.  Such extremes of thought may seem ridiculous to you or I, but to the exhausted mortal woman, it can seem possible.

Your goal is to make her think the husband does not notice, or even better, that he does not care about her efforts at home.

Secondly, do what you can to keep her focused on  her troubles and pains.

Remind her how much her back aches, how draining the children were all day, and how many undone tasks still beckon her.  Do not let her wonder what difficulties her husband faced that day or whether his back might also be aching.  Valuing others above oneself is one of those silly, though strangely effective, tactics of the Enemy.  If she stops to make him a cup of coffee, the next thing you know she’ll be rubbing his shoulders and flirting with him on the couch.  It can progress out of your control if you’re not careful.

Along those lines, be sure the Mother starts to value productivity above everything else.

Have her wake up early and work non-stop until bedtime.  If the husband relaxes in the evening with an hour of computer gaming, be sure the wife notices the pile of unfolded laundry or unswept floors.  Do not let her grab a book and relax alongside her husband.  Diligence, often one of the Enemy’s virtues, when overdone can be used to our advantage as well.  Convince her that as long as there is a shred of work to be done (and there always is), no one should be resting.  Then, as she folds and sweeps and he sits, you can introduce the sweet bitterness of resentment.

A word of caution here.  Remember, the love of a husband can be dangerous to our cause.

If he senses her unhappiness, he may begin to help or (even worse) show her affection.  This is where previously planted seeds of resentment can be guided into full bloom.  Make her think that his displays of affection are because he “only wants one thing”.  Do not let her view his help with the dishes (or kisses or cuddling) as having pure motives.  If he shows his desire for her, convince her that she is being used, not loved.  As we both know, the ultimate Act of Marriage can bond them together in a way that can undo much hard work on our part.  Because of this, do not allow her to prioritize that Act on her mental to-do-list.  It is in our best interest to keep the wife busy, busy, busy and be sure she’s far too exhausted to consider it by the end of the evening.

Now, onto the children.

Lovely little opportunities for us, the children, especially the little ones.

We all know that children are a favorite tool of the Enemy.  He calls them Blessings and Gifts and calls parents to lay down their lives for them, just as his Son did.  Insane, I know.  We must convince her that the obnoxious little people she has charge of are not really worth her sacrifice.  When the Mother first dreamed of having children, she probably imagined large, innocent eyes and chubby, happy grins taking up the majority of her days.  Do your best to shatter those expectations.

Instead, draw attention to how much they take from her.  Let them take and take and take…  And need and need and need, until the Mother feels totally spent.  Let them start crying at the same time for the most irrational of reasons.  Let the noise bother her.  Let their bad behavior surprise her.  Do your best to make the day-to-day monotony of diaper changes, meals, and baths seem simultaneously overwhelming and beneath her.  Let her think of all the better, more important things she could be doing with her life, if only she didn’t have the children.

Don’t let her think about the future responsible, faithful adults she is raising.

Society changers, friends, workers, husbands or wives…  Don’t let her think of them as life-long companions who will love her, converse with her, and care for her in her old age.  Oh, and definitely don’t let her think about the grandchildren she might be able to see in their little grubby faces if she looked hard enough now.  No, no, no…  Thinking ahead to when her work bears fruit, as the Enemy calls it, is always a bad idea.  Keep words like ‘heritage’ or ‘legacy’ far away from the runny noses and jelly stains of the day to day.

If there is any last piece of advice I have for you, Wormwood, it is to keep the Mother looking to her husband or family for her fulfillment and comfort.

We know that the Enemy is always watching and willing to take the burdens of his children, but if we divert the Mother’s attention well enough, this fact can be forgotten.  Make her look to her husband for worth and affirmation.  Then, when he lets her down (as he is sure to do), she will be ours to torment.  Yes, the worst thing that could happen would be for her to turn to Him with her needs and inadequacies.  Once she realizes that the Enemy offers a peace that transcends her situation, our work could be utterly compromised.

Your Malevolent Uncle,

Screwtape

Kelsey ShadeKelsey is a Christian, young wife, and mother of two boys under 3.  She blogs about home management, organization (with kids!), frugal living, and living faithfully at OrganizingLifeWithLittles.com.  You can also find her on Facebook! If you liked this Screwtape Letter, I’m sure Kelsey would appreciate you visiting her sites and connecting with her, too!

On Sin, Brokenness, and What We Should Do About It

On Sin, Judgmentalism of Christians, and Brokenness

Judgment.

That’s become a really dirty word in Christian circles lately.

A whole rash of books (like Jefferson Bethke’s great Jesus>Religion) have been published in the last few years stating that Christians are too judgmental, and this makes us irrelevant in the wider culture. But even worse, we’re hypocritical, because God judges all sins the same.

Frequently the sin that is brought up in these books is homosexuality: Fundamentalists rail loudly against homosexuality, these authors point out, but they ignore the gluttony in the pews. They rail against sexual sin, yet do nothing about gossip and pride. And as such, we turn ourselves into huge hypocrites and become the butt of jokes. A better way to approach our culture, say these authors, is to say that we are ALL sinners and ALL in need of grace.

I have noticed this preoccupation with homosexuality and shoddy doctrine myself. For instance, here’s an article about the new “Trail Life USA”, an alternative to the Boy Scouts, that is launching with tremendous fanfare. They want to return to traditional values, and I certainly support that. But in the article, one Trail Life leader said,

As Christians from a scriptural basis, we love all folks, but the Scripture is very clear that being homosexual is a sin…

No, BEING a homosexual is NOT a sin.

Participating in homosexual behaviour or entertaining lustful thoughts are sinful, as is ANY sexual activity outside of marriage. But simply BEING a homosexual is not a sin. God does not punish us for temptations but for our misdeeds. To say that being a homosexual is a sin is so hurtful to those who are trying to get right with God. We’re saying that “even if you do the right things, you will still be condemned because of your temptations.” That’s not Christian doctrine, and it is very unfortunate that in so many Christian circles we talk this way. Language matters, and we must be careful with how we portray Christ.

So I agree with 90% of what Jefferson Bethke and others in this line of thought write, because I have seen it, too.

But I worry sometimes that we’re leaving out something important, and that’s sin’s effects on people. And so I’d like to share today my train of thought when it comes to judgment and brokenness.

1. We Are All Equally Deserving of Death–All Sin Makes Us Guilty

I completely agree that any sin makes us deserving of death and deserving of judgment. James 2:10 says:

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

No matter what we have done, even if it is only “little” in our eyes, we are guilty of breaking the whole law.

There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. None of us can stand before God and say, “Well, at least I’m not as bad as THAT guy.” Christians shouldn’t be judgmental towards others, as if we are good and they are not. We are all guilty, and we all need Jesus.

2. Some Sins Contribute More to Brokenness

I once heard a very wise man say this:

The cost of lying is that you become a liar.

Sin changes us. The price that we pay is that we are no longer the same person. We are now identified with that sin. And here’s the rub: there are some sins that change us more than others. This is where I think some of the Christian authors today run the risk of trivializing the results of some sins. Yes, all sin makes us equally guilty before GOD, but some sins have more of an effect on US than other sins do.

1 Corinthians 6:18 says:

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.

There is something about sexual sin that has a profound effect on us. I think it’s because sexuality and our ability to experience true intimacy with others and with God are so intimately connected. God created us with all kinds of chemical reactions and hormonal reactions to sex that would, in turn, bond us to our spouse. When those chemical reactions start to be paired with sexual activity that isn’t within marriage, we start literally “rewiring the brain” so that what becomes arousing is not intimacy with a spouse but anonymous encounters, pornography, or something else. And soon we lose the ability to experience true intimacy, let alone the fullness of sexuality that God designed us for.

This impacts not just our sexuality but also our relationships with others. When sexuality becomes disordered, it affects how we view other people and how we view ourselves.

We are all broken, but some brokenness is just harder to have healed, and sexual sin seems to have tentacles that worm their way into all kinds of areas of our lives.

Acting on homosexual impulses is not the only sin, of course, that does this. It is one of the most serious, in terms of its effects, but a porn and masturbation addiction can do pretty much the same thing, and is far more rampant.

My fear is that by saying so loudly, “we are all equally guilty,” we risk diminishing the seriousness of the effects of some sins.

Here’s how I would say it:

All sins make us equally guilty before God, but some sins create more brokenness. Those who have sinned in those ways are even more in need of the support, love, and accountability that a church can offer.

People who are broken don’t need our condemnation; of that the authors are perfectly correct. But let’s still remember that there is brokenness, and if we stop acknowledging that, then we also stop offering hope for healing.

3. Not All Sins are Judged Equally

I do believe that we are equally guilty before God, and equally deserving of judgment. Absolutely. However, I don’t see evidence in Scripture that we will be judged in the same way. On the contrary, there are plenty of stories in Scripture that show that some will be judged most harshly. Here’s Matthew 11:23-24:

And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.

Those who reject Christ, when they have an amazing opportunity to accept Him, will be judged more harshly. Interestingly, they will even be judged more harshly than those who are best known for homosexual sins, showing again that God does not judge homosexuality as the worst sin at all.

Here’s another example that further illustrates what I’m saying about brokenness, from Luke 17:2:

It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.

God really doesn’t like it when people cause children, or young Christians, to stumble. Why? Quite often it’s in these moments that we cause real brokenness. Those who abuse children; those who introduce a young teen to pornography; those who divorce without good grounds and cause their kids to look elsewhere for their identity and for love and affection; these people need to be very wary on the day of judgment.

God cares about our brokenness. God knows that some things hurt and wound us deeply. Sin has horrible effects on us, and the only way to find true healing is through Christ. I do believe that we as Christians have been too quick to label certain things as horribly sinful, while also ignoring the sins that we ourselves practice. But please, in our efforts to right that wrong, let’s not forget about brokenness.

Brokenness is not God’s judgment on us; brokenness is simply the natural consequence of sin.

And brokenness is so sad, and so damaging, and often so intractable.

Brokenness should cause us to run to Jesus all the more, and if we as a church present the picture that God hates those who sin sexually, people are far less likely to achieve real healing. But if we also present a picture that all sin is equal and thus we are all equally broken, we also fail to give people a proper picture of what healing is.

We need both messages: we are all equally guilty, but some people desperately need major healing, and Jesus wants to give you that healing. That, I think, is the Christian approach to sin, and I hope that my attempt to flesh it out makes sense.



What Forgiveness Is–And What Forgiveness Isn’t

Today guest poster Angi Schneider tells her story about forgiveness–what it means and what it doesn’t mean. 

What Forgiveness Is: And what it isn't!One of the hardest things to do is to ask for forgiveness.  It’s easy to say “sorry”… but forgiveness, well, that’s something else entirely.

Neither my husband nor I grew up in homes where forgiveness was asked for or granted.  We really didn’t know what forgiveness is. In my home, we’d have a knock down, drag out fight (literally) and when it was over we’d either say “sorry” or just walk away. Then, we’d carry on with our lives like nothing ever happened.  Not the healthiest of situations.  (In my parent’s defense, they did not know Christ, and my Mom grew up in an orphanage which doesn’t lend itself to good parenting training.)

When I became a christian as a young adult, I became intrigued with this idea of forgiveness.  You see, when I asked for forgiveness from Christ, I not only received forgiveness but I also received peace. Peace was something that just saying “sorry” never gave me… and neither did acting like nothing ever happened.

When our oldest son was a preschooler and would need to apologize to someone, we were amazed at the number of times people would say, “It’s okay.”

Hmmmm, if it were “okay” he wouldn’t need to apologize.

And so we began a quest to instill Biblical forgiveness in our home. And let me tell you, it’s hard. It’s humbling. And it’s so worth it.

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:12-13

Saying “sorry” is not the same as asking for forgiveness.

“Sorry” can mean a lot of different things.  It can mean, “Will you please forgive me?” but it can also mean, “I’m sorry I got caught” or “I’m sorry you got your feelings hurt” or as one of my son’s said one time, “I’m sorry you made me so mad I had to hit you.”

Forgiveness starts with repentance. And repentance starts with a realization of wrong doing.  When I realize that I have mistreated someone, I have a choice to make. I can either pretend that nothing really happened or I can repent and apologize for what I have done.  In our family, it starts something like this:  “Husband (or children), I am really sorry I got frustrated (angry, short, etc.) with you.  I was not being kind (gentle, patient, compassionate, etc.) to you, the way God wants me to be.”  

We need to ask to be forgiven. Of course, forgiveness can be granted without the offender asking for it.  But, how will I know forgiveness has been granted?  How will I receive the peace that comes from knowing that I’ve been forgiven, if I don’t ask?  In our family, we say, “Will you please forgive me?”

We need to grant forgiveness when asked. I know, I know, sometimes you just don’t want to forgive… neither do I… some people just don’t deserve forgiveness.  BUT, I didn’t deserve God’s forgiveness and He granted it.  I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is important – and it brings peace.  For our family, the person who was wronged says something like, “I forgive you because Christ has forgiven me.”

For some of you, this may sound forced and insincere.  Let me assure you that it’s not.  Some of us who didn’t learn about giving and receiving forgiveness from our families need a little structure.

What forgiveness doesn’t mean.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what was done was okay – if it were, you wouldn’t need to ask for forgiveness.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that there are no consequences to the sin.  There are always consequences to sin and sometimes receiving forgiveness does not take those consequences away.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that the relationship will be just like it was.  Hopefully, the relationship will be better and healthier but that’s because both parties are working on it.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you’re a wimp.  On the contrary, it takes a strong person to do something as hard as granting, or seeking forgiveness.

We live in a culture that really doesn’t understand or practice forgiveness, even in the church.  Yet, forgiveness is vitally important in order to have healthy relationships.

 

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Angi Schneider is minister’s wife and homeschooling mom to 6 children.  She journals their homesteading and homeschooling adventures on her blog, SchneiderPeeps.  Angi is also the author of The Gardening Notebook which she wrote to help gardeners keep track of all their gardening information and dreams and The Busy Mom’s Guide ebook series to help other women discover their uniqueness, instead of continually comparing themselves to others –in real life and online.

No More Naughty and Nice

Good-Girls-110Just a quick note: The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex is on for just $2.99 for the ebook version! Now’s a great time to pick it up if you don’t have it yet. See all the places you can get it here.

 

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. I’m taking a bit of a hiatus from my column this month as I finish up the second edition of my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum. So I’m rerunning some Christmas columns that I enjoyed from years past. Here’s one that ran in Saskatchewan today, about giving ourselves a fresh start at Christmas.

No More Naughty and NiceHave you been making a list? Checking it twice? Do you know who’s naughty and nice?

Of course you do! Most of us can easily identify the two or three people in our families who are complete screw-ups (though of course we’d never put ourselves in that category). We can recite their faults at the drop of a hat. In fact, it’s one of our favourite hobbies when sitting around the family table. “Hey, kids, do you know why Billy Bob’s nose is crooked? It’s ’cause twenty-four years ago he tried to rob the Kwik-E-Mart with Nana’s Queen Size nylons over his face, but he tripped on the curb since he couldn’t see and spent the night in the ER instead!” We can never get enough of stories like that.

My theory is that we do this because human beings are essentially lazy.

And one way that we avoid work is we like to categorize things, and people, so we don’t have to think anymore. My little brother is the black sheep. My mother is the martyr. Uncle Jim is the drunk. We’ve got it all sorted out.

Once that category is created, though, we don’t like to change it. It requires too big a shift in our thought patterns. So what if Uncle Jim has been sober for nineteen years? Let’s still laugh over the time he passed out and landed right in the Christmas cranberry sauce.

Family may love you, but quite often they pigeonhole you, too.

People tend to have an easier time reinventing themselves outside of the bosom of their families, because families remember your infractions. My brother-in-law, for instance, failed his driver’s test on his first attempt because, though he is an infinitely superior parallel parker than yours truly, he failed to get out of the way of a wailing ambulance. That Christmas, his father helpfully wrapped up one of those Tonka toy ambulances, just so he wouldn’t forget his stupidity. He may be a successful businessman now, but the family still likes to laugh about it. I, of course, am the exception, since I would never try to rub that one in by announcing it to the world or anything.

Another friend of mine has had a rough adult life. Things have just not gone his way. Recently, he pulled up stakes and moved to the other side of the country, where he’s thriving. People don’t think of him in terms of his past mistakes, because they don’t know them. They look at who he is now and at what he’s capable of doing. And they love him for it.

Perhaps this Christmas might be a good time to start treating our family members as strangers.

Don’t think of them in terms of all the mistakes they’ve made, or the ways they’ve hurt you in the past. Don’t replay those cruel words they said ten years ago. Instead, while you’re sitting down to turkey, look at everyone in your family and ask, “who are they today?” And if they’re kind, if they’re successful, if they’re trying, then celebrate that.

After all, isn’t that what Christmas is all about? The Christmas story is one of new starts: in the religious tradition, God sent His Son so that we could be forgiven. We’d have a clean slate. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if we could extend that kind of grace to others in our families this year?

Everyone deserves a new start. Even you.

So Merry Christmas to all of you, and to all of your families, too. May this be a season of grace, forgiveness, and new beginnings.

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Is Looking At Porn Cheating?

Today,  please welcome guest post writer from Through the Fire, Lisa Hall-Wilson, as she shares her journey and thoughts about porn and its effects on marriage.

Is looking at porn cheating? You know I’ve got a few opinions on this because this question inevitably leads to – Is it OK to divorce him/her because of the porn? That’s a much bigger question.

I recently interviewed Canada’s Christian Sex Lady – Sheila Wray-Gregoire for an upcoming article. We got chatting briefly about porn and porn addiction. If you’ve been reading Through The Fire for a while, you know about my husband’s multi-year addiction to porn.

I thought there would be value in sharing my journey and thought-process of having lived through it.

Is looking at porn cheating

Is looking at porn really cheating?

I’m not an expert on sex – don’t claim to be. I’m not a biblical scholar either. But I’ve lived this. My husband didn’t go out and find a prostitute, he didn’t commit adultery in the physical sense. The Bible says, “but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) NASB

Harsh, right.

The Bible calls it adultery, but society doesn’t. Society says looking at porn, assuming those involved in the production of it are consenting adults, is harmless. (I take issue with the ‘harmless’ label: From Men’s Health: “In a Utah State University study, for example, more than half of male users said looking at porn led to problematic outcomes—social, spiritual, psychological, or relational. These negative effects weren’t linked to viewing time—the men who watched porn frequently were just as likely to report problems as those who watched it less often.”)

But let me tell you this, as the spouse, it FEELS like cheating. He chose photo-shopped images and FICTION over me. He poured out his desire on them instead of me. He had no interest in me. The cycle of shame and guilt he lived with caused him to be explosively angry, verbally abusive at times, and distant. Now, I know that his addiction had nothing to do with me. His choice to turn to porn wasn’t because of my lack. Understanding the why of it lessens the sting, but at the end of the day you’re still facing the reality that there’s no trust or respect left for him.

So, if the Bible says it’s cheating, and qualified psychologists acknowledge that to the affected spouse it feels like cheating…

If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…

As someone who lived through this, I considered it cheating. Would it have been worse if he’d physically gone out and committed adultery? I don’t know. In my case there wasn’t ‘the other woman’ instead I faced ‘hundreds of other women’ embedded in his memory and within easy access – though I never feared any of them would call, show up on the doorstep, or take him in if I kicked him out. Hope I never have to find out. But where does that first question inevitably lead spouses?

If viewing porn is cheating, does that make it grounds for divorce?

This was a question I wrestled with. I mean blood, sweat, tears, guts-on-the-floor wrestled with. The New Testament gives a couple of instances where divorce is allowable: abandonment, adultery, and many tack on abuse of any stripe. Death is the only instance the Bible states is cause for remarriage. (I only bring this up because it factored into my own thinking – this is not a comment on anyone’s decision.)

I felt I had biblical grounds for divorce if I wanted that, but I had to abandon any thought of remarrying. (I realize that not everyone would agree with my thinking, but this is where my conscience led me.)

Was I willing to spend the rest of my life (I was in my early 30′s at the time) alone, or could I maybe work this out? Ummm….. Being alone forever sounded pretty good. I was done with men and with relationships in general. But forever is a loooong time.

The story of Jesus saving the adulteress from stoning came to mind. The Bible gives us these words: “He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7) NASB

Could I honestly say I had NEVER entertained a lustful thought about a man who wasn’t my husband? But I’ve never looked at porn – assuming malicious pop-ups don’t count.That’s not the question. Have I ever entertained a lustful thought about another man? Yes, I’m guilty of that. Didn’t that also make me guilty of adultery in the biblical sense?Ummm…..

The other story that came to mind was the story of a king who was owed a large sum of money but he forgave the debt. The forgiven debtor then went to a man who owed him a much smaller sum. The forgiven debtor threw the second man in prison when he couldn’t pay. When the king learned of this he said, “I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’” (Matthew 18: 32-33) NASB

The first man had been forgiven of a much bigger debt than the second man, but forgiveness is what was expected from both who held the debt regardless of the amount. How much had God forgiven me of? A LOT. ….Oooh (There are perhaps better examples of this principle, but this is the one that came to mind.)

If I could forgive my husband of this hurt, (and again, my conscience warned me that God would require this of me regardless) would I be willing to still be married to him?

Suddenly my self-righteousness lost its luster, the glitter flaked off, and I was left with the naked truth. When held to the biblical standard, was I any better than him? That didn’t diminish my hurt, or the work he had to do to make it right – not what I’m saying. But when we’re judged by the same stick, did I still have a case? Yes…and no.

That’s the journey my thoughts took which helped me decide to stay and not seek divorce. It was a lot of work to rebuild our relationship. Not a single bit of it was easy. That road was paved with hurt and tears and many sleepless nights. On the other side of it we’ve now got a history together that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

My decision seemed rather black and white because my husband was truly repentant. He earnestly sought professional help, he did the hard work of breaking the addiction and has stayed free of it. If that hadn’t been the case, the other evidence that influenced my decision still remained true, but it would have made my decision a lot more difficult.

It was my conscience, not my heart, that convinced me to stay. My conscience, and my desire to be obedient to the principles and moral code set out in the Bible as I understood them. Not everyone will agree with the path I chose to arrive at my decision, not everyone will make the same decision I did. And that’s OK.

Lisa_hall_wilson FB profileLisa Hall-Wilson has published over 70 articles in the Canadian faith-based market, is a syndicated columnist, and has won national awards for her writing. She blogs at www.lisahallwilson.com but you can find her hanging out on Facebook.



Reader Question: When You’re The One Who Needs Forgiveness

Reader Question of the WeekToday’s question is one I often hear different variations of–how do I get my husband to forgive me?

Maybe you need forgiveness for cheating, or for debt, or for something else big. Here’s one woman’s conundrum:

My marriage is down the drain and mostly it is my fault. My excessive spending and taking loans (which have now amounted to [a significant debt]) without consulting my husband has created a big rift between us that seems unrepairable due to the fact he doesn’t think I will changed.

I must admit that the first time he found out, he tried to forgive, but I did It again and this time he has had it. I no it is going to take time to pay all this debt off but I don’t want to loose my family (we have a 3yr old girl) and my husband because of my selfish actions.

I feel like I am getting depressed by the unhappy environment because we barely talk only when necessary. How do I regain his trust in me and our marriage? This was surely not what I had envisioned for my marriage.

Here’s another one:

Last year my husband was traveling a lot for business and we were having some various marriage problems at the same time. I developed feelings for a neighbor, and we ended up having an affair. I broke it off after a few weeks, but my husband knows, and he’s having a hard time forgiving me. He’s not leaving me because of the kids, but he doesn’t talk to me unless he needs to. I feel so stupid and mad at myself and ashamed for what I did, but no amount of apologizing seems to do any good. What else can I try?

Both these questions have the same root: a wife has done something really horrible and broken her husband’s trust. Now how can she get her husband to forgive her?

Here are a few thoughts:

"How do I get my husband to forgive me?" Thoughts on what to do when you've broken his trust.

1. Apologies are Best Expressed in Actions, Not in Words

Saying “I’m sorry” is absolutely necessary when you’ve messed up and you need your husband’s forgiveness. But that’s only the beginning.

What your spouse really wants to know is that you are committed to never having this happen again.

So what can you do to show your spouse that you are changing? In the case of an affair, can you suggest moving or switching jobs if it will take you away from the guy? Can you ask your husband if he will share email accounts or Facebook accounts with you so that he never has to worry about what you’re doing? Can you give him your cell phone and give it up for a while?

In the case of money, can you cut up your credit cards and hand them over? Can you download a spending app on your cell phone that you can share with him to show him where the money is going? Can you consult a debt specialist about the best way to pay off the debt, and then make a plan and share it with your husband, with specific goals that you can show him that you have met? Can you figure out how you can take on the responsibility to pay off the debt, and not leave it all to him? Can you get a part-time job? Start cooking more efficiently and spending less on groceries? Have a massive yard sale?

In other words, putting yourself in a situation where you are accountable and transparent to him, and where he can see that you are serious, will often go much further than a simple apology.

2. Give Him Time to Be Angry

Your husband is really hurt. His trust is broken. You, on the other hand, are desperate to know that your marriage is going to be repaired. And it’s very hard to stand in that limbo time, when your husband is trying to work through his feelings. You’ve already worked through yours; you’re sorry, and you want things back to normal again. You want to put this behind you.

But you need to give him time to grieve. That is his right, and he needs to see that you have changed. That takes time.

In this period of limbo, throw yourself on God. Spend more time on prayer. Read your Bible a lot. Join a women’s Bible study. Find some people who can help support you and who you can talk to while your husband is working through his issues. That way you don’t have to crowd your husband and put pressure on him.

3. Truly Repent

Remember that not only have you sinned against your husband; you’ve also sinned against God. Work through your repentance with God. Read Psalm 51 on a daily basis for a time, and pray through it. Develop some true humility. That will help you work this through.

And as you’re doing that, you’ll be able to accept God’s forgiveness, which is very freeing. No, perhaps your husband hasn’t let it go yet. But you can feel restored by God, and He can help you move forward with that new humility and that new gentleness that comes from recognizing that you are fallible.

4. Do Random Nice Things

It’s tempting when he stops talking to you or when he reacts in anger to act similarly in return. Don’t. Simply be nice. I don’t mean be luvey-duvey; sending him love notes in his lunch is not appropriate, as much as you may want to do this. You can’t force the romance back. But you can get up early and make his coffee before he leaves for work, without demanding a thank you. You can take the car in for an oil change without him having to prompt you. You can buy his mom a birthday card so he doesn’t have to, and leave it for him to sign. You can just simply BE NICE.

You don’t have to announce that you’ve done these things–”did you like me getting coffee for you this morning?”. You can just do them. And gradually, as you treat him well, with respect, you may notice a thawing.

5. Work on Your Friendship

Conversation often returns before the real expressions of love, and that’s to be expected. You only start rebuilding trust one level at a time. Once you are conversing again, and you’re able to be in the same room again, start doing things as friends that don’t require a screen. Get out of the house this summer and go on hikes, or bike rides. Play golf. Do a puzzle. Anything! Just find things that you can do together that are low stress that aren’t necessarily romantic. That way you’re not forcing a relationship; you’re forging a new one.

6. Allow Room for Anger

You may think that several months have gone by, and things are progressing, so he shouldn’t be angry anymore. But it’s often just as you are starting to talk that his anger starts really surfacing. Now he may have a lot of questions–what did you do with that guy? Tell me in detail! What were you thinking when you spent all that money? etc. etc.

When he starts demanding answers, don’t say, “I’ve said I’m sorry! What else can I say? You seem to want to punish me indefinitely!” That may be natural, but he does need time to get his questions out. I’d advise answering them as honestly and succinctly (you don’t need to go into a lot of detail) as you can.

Also, avoid the impulse to defend yourself. “I wouldn’t have had the affair if you had shown some interest in me!” Or “If you hadn’t spent so much time on video games maybe I wouldn’t have felt so lonely!” Those are real issues, and do need to be dealt with. But leave them for another time, or bring them up with a counselor. For now, let him express his anger. Once you have talked about his issues, you can say, “I don’t ever want to be tempted in this way again. Can we talk about how to build our relationship so that neither of us ever strays?” Then you can mention some of your issues–video games, for instance. But leave this until after he has had a chance to deal with his anger.

6. See a Counselor

Finally, when major trust has been broken it’s often a good idea to sit down with a third party and talk things through, especially if your husband has a lot of questions, and you providing answers doesn’t seem to be satisfying him. Sometimes allowing your husband to ask you these questions with a third party present can help you figure out how much to share, and can help put limits on how many questions he could/should ask.

7. Decide What to Tell the Children

I’m a big advocate in not keeping secrets. Children pick up on things anyway, and when they know there is tension in the house, but they don’t know why, they tend to assume that they are the cause of it. Telling your children what you did, at an age appropriate level, is likely a good idea. If you had an affair, for instance, you don’t necessarily need to say “I had an affair”, but you could tell a young child that Mommy did something that hurt Daddy. That way you’re letting the child know that you are the cause of the tension. If they’re teens, it’s likely a good idea just to be honest. They’ll find out one day anyway. Before you tell the kids anything, of course, talk to your husband about it. Say, “this is what I’d like to tell the children.” But my advice is always to be honest.

During the period of time when you’re trying to get your husband to forgive you, it’s tempting to get your emotional needs met from the kids. You’re heartbroken, so you pull them closer. Don’t do this. It’s not emotionally healthy for them. If you have emotional needs, seek out a friend, not your kids.

If your husband sees you accepting responsibility in front of the kids, and not trying to sugar coat things, that will also go further in showing him that you are serious about your apology, and help your husband to forgive you faster.

If you’ve messed up your marriage, the road back can be very long. But so many marriages have found themselves even stronger several years down the road because they have worked through these issues, and they’ve learned better communication techniques and put in place more boundaries. So don’t despair–fogiveness is possible!

And ladies, if any of you have ever walked through something similar, and had to get forgiveness from your husband, and you now find your marriage stronger, can you leave a comment? That will reassure so many of my readers. And if you have any other thoughts on how to encourage your husband to forgive you, please leave them in the comments, too!

Pure Hope–Bringing Purity Back to the Bedroom

PurityLargeOur family has been to Africa several times, to a children’s home for rescued kids and teens. We have met girls who were prostituted out by family members. We have met girls who became mothers at 13 and 14 because grandparents sold them for food. We met girls who were imprisoned for being homeless, and who were then used regularly by the guards.

They are pure.

They have found Jesus, and they know that what was done to them does not define who they are. And they know that it’s not just about God seeing them as pure because of what Jesus has done–it’s also that they don’t bear the responsibility for that shame at all. We live in a fallen world, and people acted towards them out of that fallen world. And they know that God has a new start, and a new future, for them.

A few months ago I published the anonymous story of a homeschooling blogger who, long ago, worked as a stripper. She used her body because it made her feel powerful.

She is pure, too. She is pure because she came back to Jesus, and she recognized that what she was doing was wrong. And God is helping her rebuild her life and her marriage.

Purity has received a bit of a drumming in the media lately. There’s been a stream of articles saying something like this:

When Christians preach abstinence, they make anyone who has ever made a mistake or anyone who has been assaulted feel like garbage. Like they’re goods that should be tossed aside.

I do understand this sentiment. Sometimes we phrase purity in the wrong way–as if you can be “tainted” irrevocably; as if these girls in Africa or this homeschooling mom can never, ever get back something precious, and they are ruined for life.

Can we resolve this?

I think we can, and that’s why I’m participating in Purity Day with a bunch of other bloggers to talk about how precious a thing it is. To me, it boils down to this:

Purity has far more to do with what you believe about God now than it does with what you’ve done with your body in the past.
(Click to Tweet this quote).

I am a mother of two teenagers, and so I talk a lot about purity. I really want my children to wait until they’re married to have sex–or even to get sexually intimate with someone else (because let’s face it; you can be intimate without intercourse). But this isn’t because I think they will be worth-less if they don’t wait.

It isn’t because I will be disappointed IN them.

It’s because I will be disappointed FOR them.

God’s design is for sex within marriage, because sex is so much more than physical.

God created sex to unite us in three ways: physically, spiritually, and emotionally. When we take sex outside of the marriage context we make it all about the physical, because you can’t feel like you’re one with someone that you are not committed to. It changes the very nature of sex. And then it becomes harder, when you are married, to experience deep intimacy during intercourse because it’s always been about something else.

That’s one of the reasons God wants us to wait–so that we can experience that real intimacy.

And it’s also because when we don’t wait for marriage to have sex, and share our bodies before we’ve committed our hearts, we can hurt ourselves. It’s easy to rationalize this away, and say, “if Christians didn’t make people feel guilty over sex they wouldn’t feel badly! The problem is with the church for making everybody feel guilty!”

I don’t think the problem is with God. I think the issue is that, at heart, we know that sex is a deeply personal experience. There’s a reason why we cover ourselves up when we go out of the house. There’s a reason that we dread internal exams at doctor’s offices. There’s a reason that we have nightmares about showing up at school naked.

It’s because nakedness ISN’T something we share with everybody, and we’re born with that instinct that it is something special, to be preserved.

And when it isn’t, we do tend to feel badly. We tend to feel shame.

Now Jesus doesn’t want us to live in shame; He came and died so that we don’t have to.

When we recognize the true nature of intimacy, and how much God loves us, we can recapture that purity, perhaps even to a greater degree. It’s not just about living by rules; it’s about understanding real intimacy. Once we understand purity and intimacy with God, we realize it’s so much more than just what we do with our bodies.

Yet many of us are living in limbo. We want to believe this, but we haven’t experienced that “deep connection” with our husbands in bed. It’s always seemed, well, shallow.

If you feel like you have had sex, but you’ve never made love, it could be that in your marriage you haven’t found that “purity” that God wants for you.

And I can tell you from experience that the physical side of sex feels so much better when the intimacy is also there! They’re both totally and completely intertwined. What I desperately want is for everybody to understand how beautiful it is to make love to their spouse–when you know you are united body, mind and soul.

That is His design.

Colors of Compassion–Hope is a Seed–Premium Cards from Dayspring

But He also made a way so that even if we didn’t live up to it, or even if someone has snatched something precious from us, we can still find that purity, that innocence, that beauty in making love with our husbands. Jesus makes all things new. Jesus died for the shame that we felt, whether due to something we did, or something that was done to us.

Everyday on this blog I read comments and get emails from women who are so broken. Porn has ravaged their marriage. Abuse has marred their sexuality. Erotica has damaged their ability to feel “one” with their husbands. And they yearn for that feeling of oneness, that feeling that they can truly make love to their spouse.

You can! But the route isn’t to say that purity doesn’t matter; the route is to say that it DOES matter. It matters greatly. But no matter how big your problems are, God is still bigger. And God wants to enter into that pain and to fill that void and help you experience real intimacy once again.

He’s calling you to get lost in Him. To revel in Him. And as we do that, we’ll develop a healthy and beautiful yearning for true intimacy with our husbands, because our spirituality and our sexuality are so connected.

If more people caught this vision, that intimacy and purity are something so beautiful, and so tender, we’d have less hurt in the world. And we’d have more beauty.

I don’t preach purity because I want people to feel guilty; I preach it because I want people to avoid pain, and I want people to experience true joy in their marriages.

We don’t experience that by denying that sex is a deeply personal experience; we experience it by coming to terms with what sex is, and going to God for release from our pasts and for a vision for our future. That’s something that God offers to all of us, whatever our background. He says, come to me and I will make all things new. He says, “for if the Son has set you free, you are free indeed.”

31DaysCover 110Can you choose to be free today? Can you choose to walk in that–to leave behind the shame, and the guilt, and the porn or erotica or fantasies? Purity is the route to real freedom. And it is truly beautiful.

Join the Blog About Purity Day! Check out the other blogs participating here, and then share these posts everywhere you can.

If you want a new start with your husband, and a new chance to experience “making love” and not just having sex, I encourage you to try 31 Days to Great Sex. It isn’t “31 days of sex tricks”. It’s 31 days of learning how to communicate, how to dispell the lies we believe about sex, how to laugh together and flirt, and how to explore and have fun. Each day builds on the one before, and it helps you feel so much more connected. It’s the best $5 you’ll ever spend on your marriage!


When Your Marriage is in Crisis–Fight!

Fight for Your MarriageThere’s a great scene in the movie Laws of Attraction when Julianne Moore and Pierce Brosnan, who have been in crisis, meet up in a grocery store. And Julianne Moore says, “Sometimes they say you have to fight for your marriage. Do you want to fight?”

So let me ask you today, “are you willing to fight“?

Because sometimes we’re too quick to give in to defeat and feelings of anger and bitterness and disappointment and even just plain hurt and heartache.

Let me tell you of one email I received today, which is quite typical. Here’s the situation:

She’s always been sensitive about her body. She’s a little overweight and not very well endowed. But she used to have fun buying cute lingerie and making herself pretty for him. Then, when she was pregnant, she found out that he was watching porn and that he had cheated on her. He’s now done a complete 180. He’s strong with God. He’s a great dad. He’s truly repentant. He’s got accountability, and he’s not using porn.

It’s not really about forgiving him, she says. That’s not her problem. The problem is that now she doesn’t feel sexy. What’s the point? She used to do all these “fun” things to attract him and they didn’t work. He strayed anyway. All that work in preparing herself and all the while he was looking at women with totally different bodies. He simply isn’t attracted to her. And every time he touches her she feels that. So they just don’t make love anymore, and she doesn’t know how to get past it. How can she ever feel attractive to him again?

Do you feel her pain? I certainly do. That would be so awful; to feel like your husband went for a totally different body type. To feel as if no matter what you did, you could never be good enough. The rejection would be huge.

But here’s the thing: it’s precisely because that hurts so much that it is such an effective weapon. And so you now have a choice:

1. Do I give in to what are perfectly legitimate feelings? Do I let the anger drive a permanent wedge between us?

2. Do I fight against these feelings and try to rebuild intimacy?

Most people choose #1 because they don’t see a choice. That’s how I feel, after all. I can’t change my feelings. And he’s the one who cheated! It’s not me who is wrecking the marriage; it’s what he did.

I realize that. But so what if you’re right? What does being right get you? It lets you feel perfectly righteous all the way to divorce court. It doesn’t rebuild a relationship. Or maybe you never split up, but you lead two completely separate lives under the same roof, and that is not good for your children.

I truly think the only option is #2. You’ll never find peace or intimacy if you pursue #1. You may say, “he needs to make it up to me,” but how can he? He can’t take it away.

And so the ball is in your court–even if that feels unfair.

So fight! Here are some thoughts on how:

1. Recognize that your husband is not the enemy

This is a tough one. Your husband was the one who did wrong. Your husband cheated on you. But right now, he is not the enemy. He loves you and wants to rebuild the relationship. The enemy is Satan, or, if you don’t like that, the enemy is all of these negative thoughts that are in your head trying to pull the two of you apart.

Think about it this way: what would you do if someone threatened your child? You would fight with every ounce of strength that you had to protect your child.

Divorce hurts kids. And what is threatening your child right now? It’s not what he did. It’s those thoughts that are tearing you apart.

If you would fight a stranger tooth and nail who was trying to hurt the kids, then put that same energy into fighting those thoughts.

Yes, it’s hard. They’re legitimate feelings. But that’s why you have to FIGHT. Fight is not a calm word. It takes energy. It takes emotion. It’s difficult. But you have to do it.

2. Rebuild Trust

Right now you’re fixating on all the ways that he chose other women over you–again, very understandably. But if you’re going to move ahead, you have to build something new–build some place in your relationship where he’s obviously choosing you. So work on your friendship. Do things together. Go for walks after dinner just to talk. Share dreams. Plan about where you’d like your family to be in five years. Make financial plans together. Make vacation plans. Plan for what you want to do with your children.

If you can play together, and do things together, and look at the future together, you’ll start to think of yourself as a unit again.

3. Pray

Sex is more than just physical. Sex is also supposed to be a true spiritual connection. Making love is not the same as having sex. What your husband did was have sex with other women–and fantasize about other women. But what he has with you is far deeper. It’s about a total becoming one flesh. It’s a complete connection. And ultimately he chose you. Maybe you worry he did that because of the kids. That’s understandable. But even that shows that there is something special that you share that no one else does. Your connection is deeper than theirs.

So deepen it. Spend time praying together, even if it’s tough (that’s where the fighting comes in again!). If you can start to feel like you’re spiritually one, it’s easier to break through other barriers. And it’s easier to want to feel intimate in other ways again.

4. Be Honest

You’re insecure. It’s okay to tell him that. It’s okay to ask him to go slow and to try to woo you again. Ask him to show you that he enjoys your body, too. And if he’s having a hard time because he’s all tied up in guilt, take things slowly. Don’t necessarily make love, but spend time naked together. Be intimate. Just kiss. Start small and see if feelings return.

It’s okay to make love while you’re crying for all the things you’ve lost. It’s okay to make love while your heart is breaking. And his probably is, too. That’s just being honest, and sometimes when we’re honest the sexual feelings come even more powerfully. So be honest, but don’t avoid intimacy. Just try to build it based first and foremost on you being one flesh, not on it just being about sexual desire.

5. Take Pride in Yourself

One last thing: if you become so insecure about your body, and say, “there’s no point in even trying because I wasn’t good enough when I did try”, who do you end up punishing? Your husband? Certainly, because men are visually stimulated.

But I think you punish yourself more. If you let yourself become dumpy, for lack of a better word, how are you going to feel about yourself? How are your children going to see you?

You are a beautiful woman. God created you just as you are. Whether your husband rejected you or not, you are still lovely in God’s eyes. It’s not about how your husband sees you; it’s about how you see yourself and how God sees you. If you become dumpy, you’re letting the world know, “I don’t think I’m worth much.” But if you put effort in, and take pride in your appearance, you’re letting the world know, “I like who I am. I’m comfortable with me. If other people don’t share that feeling, that’s their problem, not mine.”

Which do you think is more beneficial to you, and your kids, in the long run? Putting in effort, or letting yourself fall apart?

You see, my friends, if you give in to those negative feelings, all you do is punish yourself (and your kids, and your husband). They’re legitimate, sure, but it’s not worth it. So FIGHT. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it takes effort. But God loves a good fight, and He is there to do battle for you. He is waiting for you to put on your armour and say, “I’m entering the battle field.” Do that, and He will show up, big time, and will fight for you.

It reminds me of this graphic I put up on Facebook this week:

RippleEffects

Wifey Wednesday: When Your Past Hurts Impact Your Marital Battles

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! And you can all link up your own marriage posts in the linky below!

Today’s Wifey Wednesday is brought to you by Alexandra Kuykendall, author of The Artist’s Daughter: A Memoir, where she tells her story of recovery from the abandonment by her father. Did you bring baggage into your marriage that made it hard to trust your husband? Alexandra understands!

PastHurtsI looked down at the table, the wood farm table that Derek had refinished in our garage, the one where he ate dinner with his parents and sisters when he was a boy and then a teenager, growing into the man I would later marry. Now I faced him as he was sitting next to me and my legs straddled the table-length bench and the hated thick tension that happened when we were fighting was present between us. Why couldn’t I say what I wanted? Spit out the words and opinions that were there? Why was I so afraid of making him angry? Derek is not an exploder, I knew I wasn’t afraid of his reaction that way and yet I could tell there was resistance because I didn’t want to upset him.

I let myself hear the tiny whisper from the back of my brain. It had been a while since I’d heard it. I pushed against it, but on that day I couldn’t ignore the why behind the fears, I was afraid he would leave. Really? Get up and walk out on me and the girls? No. But I have been wired from birth to think a man would leave, wouldn’t think I was worth sticking around for. It is the heritage I brought to my marriage. And so that internal tension is present whenever real tension starts to flare and I have to fight against it because I know it’s not based on truth.

The early years of marriage were like hurdling boulders. I had to get around those expectations, and hurts and hopes for what a husband would fulfill. I had to realize God was the only healer, that my imperfect, human husband couldn’t fix the hurts created by another imperfect, human man, my father. They were both men, yes, but one was not intended to replace the other.

And the boulders have shrunk to now bumps in my path. I still have to see them, step over them lest I trip on them. Those insecurities that are buried so far down I forget they are there until they poke up causing me to stumble and redirect my footing. Like that day only a few years ago on the bench when I recognized that hurt was causing me to doubt a man who had been nothing but faithful to me.

How I’ve fought the internal lies that tell me my husband will repeat the patterns of my father:

  • I recognize my wiring. I know based on my childhood experiences that I have to fight against certain messages. This helps me recognize what is really going on when the insecurities appear.
  • I focus on what I know to be true. That my husband is a faithful man. That he is not the same person as my father. That he has NEVER indicated he will leave me. That he deserves to be believed when he tells me he loves me.
  • I pray. For God to ease my fears. To live from a place of trust. For the Holy Spirit to guide my inner thoughts and bring light to what is true.
  • I act out of trust. In who God is. In who my husband is. And move forward.

Connections photoAlexandra Kuykendall spends her days wiping tears, bottoms and countertops and working for MOPS International (Mothers of Preschoolers). She and her husband Derek parent their four girls, ages 10 to 1, in Denver, CO. Her debut book, The Artist’s Daughter – A Memoir, was just released by Revell Books. You can connect with her in the following places:


Alexandra is giving away two copies of her book, The Artist’s Daughter! Just enter the Rafflectoper giveaway below before next Tuesday
to win!

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Now, what advice do you have for us today? Link up the URL of a marriage post you’ve written in the linky below! And be sure to link back here on your blog, too, so that other people can read all these great entries!


How Do I Forgive My Husband?

What Does It Mean to Really Forgive Your Husband? A different way of thinking about it...

I get the emails or comments on this blog all the time: “My husband confessed he uses porn, and I can’t get past it. How do I forgive him?” Or “my wife had an affair and I can’t see my way through this. How can I ever treat her normally again?”

Forgiving your husband (or wife) is hard.

A while ago I reviewed Vicki Tiede’s book When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography, and she said something very interesting about forgiveness. In essence, she said that God does not ask us to forgive in a way that He does not. He asks us to forgive AS He forgives. And how does He forgive? He forgives fully and graciously, but only when people repent and turn to Him. He doesn’t forgive everybody.

1 John 1:9 says:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all  unrighteousness.

The confession comes before the forgiveness.

Jesus’ blood covers everyone’s sins, but it is only applied to those who repent. And if that’s how God forgives, then God does not ask us to forgive lightly, either. God does not say that if someone confesses a sin, but doesn’t really turn from it, or doesn’t really have any intention of changing, that we need to forgive.

I thought about that long and hard, because that’s quite contrary to what I’ve normally thought about forgiveness. Yet Vicki makes a good point.

She says that “cheap forgiveness” can do more harm than good.

Let’s say a guy is addicted to porn, for instance, and his wife finds out. He acts all contrite because he knows he’s in trouble, and asks her to forgive him. She does, because she feels that she has to, and so she tries her best to treat him exactly the same as before. He goes on sneaking around behind her back again because there is no need to actually change.

God wants us to do the hard work of healing and repentance, and if we offer forgiveness quickly, when there is no change of heart, we take away the need to do that hard work.

I agree with her. I do. And yet I was uncomfortable with this line of thinking. I have tended to think of forgiveness as something we offer partly for ourselves. We grant forgiveness because it frees US. We can’t carry around this anger anymore, and we can’t live always tied to something from the past. We need to walk forward with God.

Perhaps much of this problem is that we mean so many different things by the word “forgiveness”. Vicki was using it to mean a fully restored relationship: you cannot have a fully restored relationship if there has not been a change of heart from the one who has done wrong. Reconciliation demands true honesty and repentance.

But there is an element of forgiveness that does not depend on the other person, and this is how I’ve come to see it:

To me, forgiveness means taking the hurt, no matter what it is, and placing it in God’s hands and saying: I don’t want it anymore. Take it from me. I leave it to You to bring justice. I leave it to You to work out dealing with my offender. I leave it to You to fight for me. As for me, I will walk forward, with this left behind me.

That’s saying, “God, I believe that you are a just God who loves me and will go to battle for me and will work out your purposes for me and for this person, and so I trust you. I’m not going to try to manipulate the circumstances or extract an apology or demand restitution. I’ll leave it all up to you, and I trust you with it.”

How to Forgive Your Spouse

Forgiving your spouse is really more a matter of trust than anything else.

And forgiveness is about letting go. When I walked through the whole forgiveness process with my father, who left when I was very young, I had to come to terms with the fact that he would never apologize, because he didn’t really understand what he had done. He did not get the magnitude of how much he hurt me. And I realized that a part of me was hanging on to the dream that one day he would sit down and spill out all of his offences, and apologize for them, and ask me to forgive him. Forgiveness, though, means letting go of the dream that he will one day ask that. Forgiveness means putting that dream in God’s hands. God will be the One to fight for you. There is justice, and God will work it out. Perhaps the person will come to repentance and will claim Jesus’ forgiveness. And perhaps they will not. But regardless, God will go to bat for you. You don’t have to. And if we let go of this dream of an apology or acknowledgement of our hurt, then we can move forward.

Recently I was out with a young friend of mine who had been a victim of a violent random attack. She’d been skittish since this happened, and had experienced a difficult time processing it. We were just chatting about nothing in particular, but I was in the middle of writing the review for Tiede’s book, so I was just talking out loud about some of these thoughts. And I told her what I was thinking about forgiveness: it’s not saying it didn’t matter, and it’s not saying we’re best friends now. It’s just putting the whole thing in God’s hands and letting Him deal with it. It’s letting go of the need or dream of any apology or acknowledgement because you know God will handle it. And it’s turning away from it and walking forward.

Trust in the Lord

A few weeks later her mom called me and said, “I don’t know what you said but she’s been so much LIGHTER.” That made me lighter, too.

I think in marriage that this can be the hardest thing. We want the other person to pay. We want them to list out all their sins in great detail and grovel. And yet I believe the proper model is that if there is true repentance, which is always accompanied by confession, not secrecy, and by a dedication to work hard to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, then you forgive your husband, let it go and are fully reconciled. If there is not that repentance, and the sin is one that could seriously endanger the marriage (like adultery, or addictions, or porn), then you act smart. You draw boundaries. You do not become fully reconciled yet.

But you also leave it to God. You don’t punish your spouse. You don’t demand. You don’t play scenarios over and over in your mind where your spouse humiliates himself or herself before you. You hand the offense over to God and ask Him to take care of it. You let go of the need for that sin to ever be fully acknowledged, or to ever receive a full apology. That’s what that waiting period means: you trust in God to take care of it. And in the meantime, you act in love, but also in wisdom, not reconciling when there isn’t full repentance, but not living trapped in this sin, where everything in your life revolves around your anger and your need for restitution.

Forgiveness, then, is not so much about the sin as it is about trust in God.

And that’s hard. It’s so, so hard. But it’s also so freeing.

What have you found? Have you ever had to forgive and leave something in God’s hands? Have you ever had to let go of the dream of a full apology?

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