Grace and Mercy in Marriage
“Use your marriage as a place to extend the same grace and mercy that you have received from God.”
Arrogance and a sense of entitlement fuel his behavior. Eager to prove himself, he casts aside everything that he’s been taught about right and wrong. He doesn’t care who he hurts. No one’s feelings matter but his.
Tired of the constraints of his life, he cuts the rope and sails away from home. His appetites drive him headlong toward women who have open arms but no soul; desperate women who know how to take advantage of those who have no anchor.
He isn’t alone in his journey. Numerous companions surround him in his revelry. They encourage him to forget about the people he’s deserted back home. “Eat, drink, and be merry,” is the clarion call that brings them together. Raucous laughter punctuates the night as fleshly appetites are fed.
The home he left behind is now filled with broken hearts, shattered spirits, and sleepless nights. As days turn into weeks and weeks into months, the candle of hope grows dimmer and dimmer until only a flicker remains.
Now stones with names like hurt, sadness, anger, resentment, and bitterness are being laid one at a time by the survivors, creating a wall of safety they can hide behind.
All the while the grains of sand in the man’s hourglass of life drain away. And time, the force that often strips the veneer from life, finds this arrogant man living a hollow life. Layer by layer his life disappears – the fun, the laughter, the women, the friends, the sleek-polished look, the pride, even the appetites that had fueled his journey. Until there is nothing left but a hand-to-mouth existence.
Looking around, he find his companions have four legs instead of two. Their pleasure and excitement is to wallow in filth. On his all fours, he lines up cheek to cheek with these swine and eats from their trough.
What hope is there for such a man?
What will be his end?
Can his life be salvaged?
Can he regain his family?
From behind their wall of safety, the family he has deserted yells in anger, “But what does he deserve?”
That question is easy to answer. He deserves exactly what he has reaped, and more. He deserves to be miserable, to hurt, to feel the pressure of guilt on his chest like the foot of an elephant, to have regret haunt his sleepless nights, to be mocked and made fun of, to have the candle of hope blown out – all this and more.
What he does not deserve is a second chance. He made his choice and he should suffer for it for the rest of his life.
In the dark of a moonless night, the smell of freshly baked bread unexpectedly drifts by him. The door of his emotional memory bank is flung open. He is flooded with feelings of peace, happiness, and contentment. His thoughts turn to home. But in two heartbeats those feelings evaporate and he realizes they were only a distant memory.
In the most desperate hour of his life, there is only thing that can rescue this man – the gift of grace and mercy.
Those fleeting feelings of home awaken something in him. He makes a decision. He will return to home and use those nine life changing words: I was wrong; I am sorry; I love you; hoping against hope that he will be received.
We are at a crossroads in this story.
If you were his family, and he came home to you, what would you do?
After erecting the protective stone wall between you and the offender, would you take it down? Could you take it down?
This may be the most difficult of all passages that marriages go through. The stakes are the highest and the consequences long lasting.
The story that I’ve shared is a retelling of a famous one. In most Bibles it is referred to as “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.” Luke 15.
In that story, the father chooses to give the lost son grace and mercy. The older brother refuses to.
So what would motivate someone to respond with the grace and mercy that this father gave his wayward son? It is possible that the father’s past life had taken him in directions and places he should not have gone. He knew what it was like to make a mistake. He may have experienced eating with pigs, too. Maybe he had served time in a prison whose four walls are regret, guilt, grief, and despair.
Perhaps he had experienced the joy that comes from having his shackles removed by the keys of grace and mercy. And ever since then, he looked for opportunities to pay forward the gifts he had been received.
With an eager heart, he obeyed the commandment, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13
The times we most intensely feel the need for grace and mercy are at the most desperate times of our lives – when we have turned our backs on God. That’s why we are so eager to receive those gifts.
But it is this very same reason that makes it so hard for us to extend grace and mercy. In desperate times we sometimes shut the door of our heart. The walls of protection that we erect in response to being wounded seem impenetrable – from both sides.
Only the fragrance of grace and mercy can penetrate such a wall.
If there is one place on earth that we humans have ample opportunity to give and receive grace and mercy, it is in a marriage. Why? Because it has two people in it like you and me!
We fall. We stumble. We mess up. We make mistakes. It is part of being a human.
Each of us has been on the receiving end of God’s grace and mercy, and it has changed us.
How beautiful it is to have the opportunity to demonstrate that same grace and mercy to another person, especially our spouse, and witness the change it can make in their life, too.
If we can learn to extend grace and mercy during crises, it will make all our marital passages easier to navigate.
May God bless you in your voyage!