A relationship is like a car engine. It needs lubrication. I had a friend who used to be a prosperous businessman. His car was a fancy Volvo. Then he fell into hard times. He still drove the Volvo to get around, but, being financially tight, he skimped on regular tune-ups. The time came that the engine oil got so dirty that it damaged the pistons. His car, now useless, sits rusting in his garage.
Grace is the lubricant of relationships. Great grace makes for great relationships. It works like this: You hurt me, but I choose not to hurt you back. Rather, I choose to give you a blessing you do not deserve.
This doesn’t mean that we condone the wrong or evade the issue. It doesn’t excuse domestic violence which is not necessarily physical. But one can still exercise grace which seeks the redemption of the offender.
Yet the chronic dilemma persists. “How can I ever forgive her? What she did was so hurtful!” The answer is first to realize the enormous grace which God has given us. Then extending grace to the wrongdoer should be the by-product.
So exercise grace to each other. Grace without keeping count. Grace because we received amazing grace from God. Grace that would keep us in the pathway of God’s favor.
The popular song “love will keep us together” needs some tweaking. Many couples start with romantic love. But how can we explain weddings that sparkle with bliss, only for the marriage to mutate into bitter court cases of annulment and child custody? The better adage would be “Grace will keep us together.” Truckloads of it!
Two words: character counts.
We have to be a certain kind of person in order to make marriage work. That character must be such that when trouble comes in a marriage—as it inevitably will—our natural response will be one of patience and forbearance, one that refuses to retaliate but is willing to listen. Otherwise, our carnal, selfish nature contaminates what would have been a blissful union.
There is no short-cut to character building. It takes time. Speaking for myself, my character was formed while going through much heartbreak before I met my darling wife Lucy. After tasting pain, I certainly don’t want to inflict it on others, let alone my wife. It also births a spirit of empathy and long suffering.
Sadly, many people get married so young, their character didn’t even have a chance to form. Even more tragic, many people get married without knowing the Christ who wishes to imprint His gracious and holy character in their hearts.
I don’t know about you, I am more terrified of displeasing God if I should treat Lucy shabbily. Thus, an indispensable ingredient to a strong marriage is a healthy fear of God.
I am not sure what God’s reward will be for an excellent husband or wife. Will it be the words "Well done!”? A crown? Some wag would say, “A T-shirt that says ‘I Survived Marriage!’”
But I do hope that God will honor me for being affectionate, faithful and understanding to my wife while on earth.
Now that’s character!
Oh, Lord, may it be so!
Photo by Jack Finnigan on Unsplash
Every once in a while, Lucy and I would take breakfast together and I’m usually the one who finishes my plate first. Lucy would tell me, “You can go ahead and do what you need to do next, so that you can be productive.”
Chances are, I stay at that breakfast table and linger on a few more minutes. Why? Because I want to share my presence with her, and hers with me.
Can one say that during those minutes, when I was literally doing nothing, that I was being unproductive?
Here’s the thing: productivity is not always activity. One can be productive by being with the person you love. In those silent yet tender moments, the marriage bond is being strengthened, maybe even being repaired in unseen areas. To spouses whose love language is time, this gesture is pure gold.
Conversely, beware of equating activity with productivity. We know that at the workplace: you can be busy, yet be busy with the wrong things. Similarly, being busy at the expense of quality time with your spouse is counter-productive.
So the next time your spouse – bless his or her soul – grants you permission to leave and do something else, stay put. There will always be work waiting for you, but the happiness of your beloved cannot wait.
Had the first man not given up too soon, he would be rich beyond his wildest dreams.
A man was strolling through his land and found a nugget of gold on the ground. Excitedly, he grabbed a shovel and began digging around. He dug dozens of pits. He dug wide and he dug deep. But instead of more gold, he only uncovered more dirt.
Fatigued and disgusted, he sold his hole-ridden property to someone else.
The new owner took a closer look at one of the holes. Out of curiosity, he dug a few inches further down and discovered what turned out to be a rich vein of gold. Had the first man not given up too soon, he would be rich beyond his wildest dreams.
Too often we struggle with problems and pressures and, like that disgusted owner, we give up. But we may miss out the “gold” that comes with sticking it out.
I am not saying that there are no circumstances under which we quit. I am saying that we think carefully before we do. Don’t sacrifice what may be a good place right now in favor of the temporary relief of surrender.
If today you want to raise the white flag, don’t. Hang in there.
Persevere. Keep the faith. You’ll be glad you did.
Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash