I had ordered some material that was important to me and had waited for six weeks for it to arrive. Finally it came in the mail and I placed it on the piano in the living room to go through it when I returned home from work.
Later that evening I came to retrieve the material and it was gone. I asked Paula about it and she looked at me with a pained expression on her face. Immediately, I knew what had happened. She had thrown it away.
After she confirmed what she had done I reacted with angry words. I told her that I had waited for six weeks for it. I told her how important it was. I told her that she didn’t have a right to throw it away, that it was my stuff, not hers.
I finally realized I had said too much and went back to our bedroom to cool down. After about ten minutes I went to find Paula and to make things right. But I couldn’t find her.
We had a small house and it wasn’t difficult to check all the rooms, but she was nowhere. I went on the front porch and couldn’t see her outside. Maybe she was taking a walk. I called her name and there was no response. I listened and heard a noise in the carport about 20 feet away.
I walked there and saw Paula sitting, quietly sobbing, going through the garbage looking for the things she had thrown away. I reached down, picked her up and walked her into the house.
Paula forgave me immediately – as she has on many occasions. One of her best qualities is her quickness to forgive and reconcile. Sadly, that was an area where I needed some growth.
One of the mistakes I made in my marriage is that I wasn’t quick to initiate reconciliation when we had a difference. There were reasons for my doing that, but none of them good.
One of the marks of a Christlike person is that they initiate reconciliation. It was God Who sought me in spite of my sin. He sent Christ that I might be forgiven and have a relationship with Him; without His love toward me we would never have been reconciled. He took the first step to me when I was wrong.
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
The more spiritually mature person builds the bridge of forgiveness and seeks to make things right. This is because they are reflecting the heart of a merciful and forgiving God.
This ought to be especially seen in our marriage and family. Giving one the “cold shoulder” or the “silent treatment” is not a mark of godliness, but of fear and selfishness.
Why is it difficult to initiate the restoration of a relationship? Personal pride is at the root of it. Whenever one is focused on justifying their behavior, pride is present. Pride demands to be acknowledged. Pride keeps score. Humility doesn’t have to be acknowledged being right. A humble person is aware of their own needs and is willing to be quiet.
Jay Adams says that there are basically two types of people in a marriage – one blows up and the other clams up.
This is true of Paula and myself. She is very expressive and reacts quickly to hurt; I tend to shut down. She wants to deal with the conflict quickly; I want assurances that it won’t happen again. She views discussing the details of a disagreement as necessary to resolution; I feel like I’m being attacked when the details are rehearsed.
It’s not a good recipe in reconciliation when one is pursuing and the other is passive. Rather than being defensive with my words I would pull away physically and in my spirit. I suppose I did it to communicate how hurt I was. No matter my reasons, I hurt the spirit of our marriage and was not a good picture of loving my wife as Christ loved the church.
There are lots of reasons why we respond the way we do in the heat of a disagreement. I already mentioned pride. Then there is our temperament and personality; sin is expressed in specific ways unique to that bent. Also, the kind of home background we had influences our response to differences. We tend to react the way our parents did. If they tended to explode, you will, too; if they tended to bury conflict, you will, too.
So, what is our response to be? It is to confess when we’ve done wrong, and to show sorrow for it and to seek forgiveness. And when we have been the one that has been wronged, we are to be humble and show mercy. This is required for reconciliation.
My friend, Harold Vaughan, says that there are nine words essential to maintaining healthy and lasting relationships, “I was wrong; I am sorry; please forgive me”. That would be a good sentence to put in a visible place and to practice it regularly.
However, we won’t practice this lifestyle apart from the mercy of God in our own life. All of us need God’s mercy and we reflect His heart when we show mercy to others. May our marriages and families be characterized by mercy that doesn’t keep score and seeks reconciliation.