I recently made some mistakes that I needed to ask forgiveness for from my husband (and before any tongues start wagging over what exactly I did, I'll go ahead and tell you it had to do with me messing up our money and I'm going to leave it at that). My carelessness and selfishness left us in a difficult place when it came time to pay for both my daughter's & my husband's tuition & books for this year.
I sat down with him one night to explain everything (I handle all the bill paying, etc. in our family and just update him on where we're at). I immediately burst into tears. The truth of the situation was that by the world's standards, my mistake was hardly that big a deal. But to me, I knew I had betrayed my husband. I had been careless and selfish and a poor steward of the gifts God has given us and my hubby had worked so hard for. I had cheated them both.
So as I poured out my confession, along with my tears, and begged for forgiveness, made promises to do better, I waited for an outburst. I waited for a, "What is the matter with you?" I waited for him to yank away the checkbook and my card. I waited for the judgment I deserved for my screw up.
Instead, he hugged me, said he forgave me and that everything was fine, and he appreciated my being honest with him. Then he went and got me some tissue since at that point I was crying so hard I was about to blow my nose on my shirt (no lie). If that isn't a modern day portrait of washing someone else's feet, I don't know what is.
Of course, then I cried even harder. I didn't deserve the grace he was giving me. The proof was in black & white on the bank statement. I had screwed up. I needed to do penance of some sort to make up for my mistakes.
But he took that burden off of me, and just encouraged me to move forward. He didn't bring up my mistake again.
That was over a month ago. Last night we had another conversation about money where my screwup came up again because it affected something else this past month. I started to cry again just talking about it. My husband held up his hand as I started to apologize again. "You don't need to do that," he said. "It's in the past. Stop letting it bother you so much."
* * *
This entire year has been one giant season of learning about heartache, grace, disappointment, forgiveness, and freedom. I've been unloving and bitter at times and God has had to soften my heart many, many times over. I'm daily learning lessons about forgiveness - what it means, why we do it, how to properly (humbly) ask for it, how to do it when people don't ask for it, how to offer it to people who by all outward appearances don't deserve it.
I don't think anything has ministered to me quite so much this year as this episode with my husband, my asking and his giving of forgiveness. Forgiveness is so polar opposite of everything we know. Would my husband have been totally within his right to tell me how bad I'd made everything for him, to take away my checkbook & card, and to put me on some kind of probationary period until I "proved" I could handle responsibility? Sure he would have. He forsook that right, choosing instead to pour out grace - grace he didn't have to give at all. Grace that could have been tough because he was the one who was wronged. He blessed my soul that evening by being Christ's hands and heart to me. I saw a beautiful picture of Christ's love acted out in my husband's actions.
How much do we cheat ourselves by not removing ourselves from topmost pedestal? We hang on to secrets, rights, the need to always have ourselves looking polished and shiny or 100% right. We alienate others by doing so. We miss out on opportunities to receive grace and become Christ to others because of our pride, our need to self-preserve, even if it's only in others' eyes.
The essence of the Gospel is this: reconciliation. I was deeply, deeply moved by how much closer I felt to my husband after this ordeal. A man I've known for 11 years, a man whose child I bore, a man who stood beside me in a hospital room during the scary moments where I was clinging to life. You'd think we couldn't get any closer than through things like that. But we can. And we do. And it is only through grace supplied by Christ.
We reconcile to God by our confession to Him of our unworthiness, our depravity, our filthy rags of sin, and our need for Christ's interceding sacrifice on our behalf. He reconciles Himself to us by pouring out grace, rather than judgment. By removing those sins as far as the east is from the west. He sets us free. And He draws us in. It's a closeness closer than air.
This has challenged me to become more real. Of all the problems of the church (and goodness knows there are many!) I think our reluctance to become real with each other is one of the biggest barriers. We can't even apologize or ask forgiveness to other believers because we feel we have to save face. Or we cover our shallow attempts at confession with excuses to explain away our behavior. That's not Christ. That's nothing but self and justification and pride.
Personally, I think it's time we bring back grace. Bring back being the hands and feet and heart of Christ to those we've wronged and have wronged us. Christ didn't shed His blood so we could make our brothers and sisters pay back every ounce of wrong they've done. He shed His blood so that, among many things, we would know what is even greater than justice: grace.
I'm chucking pretense. I'm praying for a fresh humility, a fresh infusion of the Spirit to give as good as I've been given. I am so thankful for a husband who loves me and, more importantly, loves Christ so much that he seeks to model Him at all times.
Grace. Unmerited favor. Unending blessing.