Back a couple of years ago, a good friend of ours in the blogging community, Kayla Gulick, wrote a piece entitled My Demon. In the post, she explored all of the voices she hears in her head as a woman that try to break down her security in her relationship with her husband. I thought this was a great post and even posted it on my own site. I wrote a piece shortly after called The Voices in His Head to try to explain what goes on in a man’s head and his struggles to be all he can be. She recently wrote another piece that explores her marriage journey from a different perspective and how she was able to see her husband as the image of how Christ loved the church. I think you will find the post worth your while to read.
Nineteen months ago, I saw my role in my marriage in a new light. I saw how I was disrespecting my husband, how I was full of pride, how I had unrealistic expectations, how many idols I was obsessed with serving, how unforgiving and resentful I was, and how much better I thought I was than the man I married… all while thinking I was a better Christian than he was too.
It was humbling. I shed some tears. I apologized to my husband. And I spent a good solid month doing nothing but studying my behaviors, and setting up ways to break all these terrible habits.
It’s a lifelong process, I didn’t conquer anything in a month, and I’m still learning and changing every single day.
I thought at that time I saw my marriage for what it was.
I was wrong.
Thursday night, my husband and I had a long talk about who I once was and what I did in and to our marriage over the course of that first 10 years. We had already been here two years ago, so this wasn’t some shocking or earthshaking conversation.
And yet, I broke.
I spent almost all of the next 24 hours sobbing uncontrollably or secretly fighting and wiping tears in front of my kids. I’ve never cried that much before in one day, ever.
All of a sudden, through some deep reflection and conversation, I saw everything differently than I ever really had before.
I was a horrible wife. HORRIBLE.
I must have hurt my husband in ways he couldn’t even describe if he wanted to try. I put other things above him, I have lied to him, I have belittled him publicly, I have put expectations on him that no person could live up to, I have reacted in haste and wrath to his mistakes with intensely hurtful remarks and shame, I have dabbled in the game of an emotional affair, I have carried around a list of his wrongs and dwelled on them bitterly, I have had conversations in my mind premeditating how to hurt him when I felt hurt instead of offering mercy and forgiveness….
I was wretched. To me, completely unforgivable. I have no idea why he stayed married to me. I wouldn’t have stayed married to me.
I have never fallen apart like I did on Friday. While I kept desperately trying to speak truth to myself, and let my husband and my best friend speak truth to me… I could not accept it.
I didn’t want his forgiveness. I didn’t want his grace or mercy. I didn’t want his unconditional love.
I wanted him to get mad at me. I wanted him to yell and cuss and tell me how awful I was and how much I’d hurt him. I wanted him to treat me how I deserved to be treated.
Every time I presented a reason to him why he should hate me, he offered back a loving gesture… and I GOT SO ANGRY AT HIM. Angry because I felt like he was being so stupid. I thought, you deserve better you idiot. There is no forgiving what I’ve done!!
Who loves someone like that? Who forgives someone so completely? Who looks at someone and says, “That’s all in the past. You’re not that person anymore. I love you more now than I ever have. You’re my girl.” after everything I put him through?
I know he’s sinned against me. He isn’t perfect. But for the first time, his sins seemed like no big deal. And my sins seemed catastrophic.
I kept trying to compare our mistakes and his were minor and mine were major. I have always seen this the other way around. Even after I started to understand unconditional respect and how big my sins were, I didn’t see his sins as minor. I felt like we were more even-keeled.
I know people say a sin is a sin is a sin. But I don’t agree with that.
Yes, a sin is a sin in the regard that all sin separates us from God. But I believe there is a difference between sins and I think Paul makes that point in Scripture too. We can be quickly tempted and make a wrong choice, or we can willfully make premeditated sinful and or even habitual decisions on purpose and I don’t think that’s the same thing either.
While I sat there sobbing to the point I could barely breathe, I kept reflecting on the purpose of marriage.
My husband had never seemed more like Christ, ever.
I represented the church – sinful: proud, lost in idolatry, unforgiving, lustful, bitter and self-pleasing.
And he stood before me as Christ – LOVE: unconditionally holding me in the palm of his hand, merciful, gracious, forgiving every sin fully/completely as far as the east is from the west.
My husband knew I was broken. Somehow, he knew it was bad. He knew that I wasn’t how I’d ever been before.
On Thursday night I started on a downward spiral, he noticed and texted me during the day to check on me. I was mad that he texted me. I hurt him. Why would he want to see if I was OK?
I bounced back and forth between feeling like he was literally Jesus in the flesh… loving me and giving me what I could never afford…and….not wanting to talk to him at all because how dare I cry and be the one feeling hurt when I’m the one who did the hurting? I was NOT interested in playing the victim or martyr in this situation. And I knew if I opened my mouth, it would spur that “I’ll make this better for you” instinct that all men have… and I didn’t want better. I wanted what I deserved.
He walked in the door from work, locked us in our bedroom, started playing our wedding song on his phone, and made me dance with him. I didn’t want to at all. I tried to resist him and beg him to just give me some space for a while. But he wouldn’t take no for an answer. I melted in his arms. I forgot how perfect the words of our wedding song were… especially today more than ever before.
Through gut-wrenching sobs and blurred vision, I expressed what was happening in my heart and mind – and he remained the perfect picture of love and forgiveness.
I wasn’t all better after that 45 minute unraveling in his arms. But, I was on the road to facing this new reality. I was either going to end up bitter or better.
I think I needed to be broken in this way. It changed me. In a way, I’ll never be the same again. Of course I’ll still sin against my husband – I will never be perfect. But, it gave me a perspective on marriage I needed to literally feel to fully understand.
My husband decided we were one, and that means, we are one. When I’m broken, he’s broken. When I’m sinful, he’s forgiving. In my weakness, his love in and through me makes me strong again.
He’s going to sin against me. It probably won’t be too many days from now when it happens. I’ll be different. I might be hurt. We might need to talk about it. But I will never stand myself on a throne again after seeing our marriage and who I was and what I truly had to be forgiven of in the light I saw it on Friday.
I’d never accuse anyone of being as horrible of a wife as I was…. but have you truly seen your sin, as SIN, and not as justifiable mistakes?
Do you know what it cost to send Jesus to the cross?
Do you know what your husband has had to forgive you of to love you like Christ loves the church…. even when you don’t deserve it? Even when you’re rebelling? Even when you’re selfish? Even when you’re serving idols? Even when you’ve created an existence of unrealistic expectations? Even when your hormones get to control your mood? Even when you’ve given your heart to things in priority above him? Maybe even someone else (another man, a friend, the kids?) Even when you’re wagging your finger at him because he doesn’t behave how he’s suppose to in your book?
The cross looks different again to me this Easter. I see my husband on it laying down his life for mine. Taking on my sin and saying it’s no more. Telling me I am new. And I am eternally loved. And it’s too overwhelming for words.
All I have to say is that I applaud you Mr. Gulick. I think this is a great example of showing your wife Christ love for the church. I wrote in the Pursuit of Reassurance about reassuring your wife that everything is alright when her mind is telling her everything but that. This is also found and discussed in the book For Men Only by Jeff Feldhahn.
I wondered as I read Kayla’s feelings about why is it that husbands are often good at forgiving their wives so quickly. My guess is that most husbands feel like they are not worthy enough on a daily basis as a husband. Maybe they don’t feel respected, but some of it may be that they feel too wretched themselves to be deserving of respect. Forgiveness is not that hard for most husbands because the wrong doesn’t feel very different from their own mistakes and challenges. In a lot of ways, I think that they can relate and feel more connected to their wife through forgiveness. I and most men in general are not very good with words and “mushy” things. Even so, I have found that some of the best medicine when my wife is upset, angry, or struggling is for her to be held in a very loving manner. She may not want you to or even immediately respond to it, but a hug I have found is very much the ice melting device that Kayla describes.