This week, I’ve been thinking about Colossians 3:13: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
You know where I have to practise forgiveness most? Where I have to bear with someone the most? Where I have the most grievances?
In my marriage.
Now, let me explain that I am really happily married. I love my husband completely, and I’m pretty sure he loves me too. I’m not saying that my marriage is on the rocks, or that we need counselling or anything like that. I’m just saying that this is the reality.
I think this might be the reality for many marriages. And I think there are some clear reasons for it.
In a marriage, you bear with someone.
When you bear with someone, you are being patient with them. You are waiting for them. You are accepting their flaws and weaknesses. Marriage means that the other person accepts your flaws and weaknesses.
That’s part of intimacy: knowing each others’ weaknesses. When you share your life with someone, you can’t help but observe aspects of their lives that you aren’t so keen on, or parts of their personality that you wish were a little less rough around the edges. Bearing with these flaws means accepting them and acknowledging them.
It doesn’t mean changing the other person. Only the other person can choose to do that.
In a marriage, you share a load.
The other meaning of ‘bearing’ can mean to carry a heavy load. Sharing your burdens. That’s a big part of marriage too. I am finding this season of parenting very small children is hard on your marriage. It feels relentless, with night wakings, early mornings and the constant anticipation of what’s needed. Earlier this week I shared this post on my Facebook page and it had a really big reaction. Marriage when you have small children is hard. I’m reassured by friends who tell me it gets easier. I’m still looking for how to make it better right now.
But actually, bearing with someone, either in the sense of accepting their weaknesses or in the sense of sharing a load, helps you to grow closer together. That then leads to the second part of this verse: Forgive one another.
Forgiveness is essential to a successful marriage
Forgiveness is hard. Forgiveness means deliberately letting go of the hurt that someone has done to you . It means moving on. It doesn’t mean forgetting, although forgiveness might lead to forgetting.
Forgiveness is a conscious decision. If we all waited until we ‘felt’ that the time was ‘right’ to forgive, there would be nothing special or powerful about that. Instead, we must make an active, concerted effort to forgive when we feel that someone has done us wrong.
I find this hard, especially in marriage. I have a little nagging voice that is the voice of resentment, nagging and whining away while I let the resentment I feel towards my husband build up. It takes a real effort, and a lot of prayer, to make that nagging voice go away. Mostly the best way to make it go away is to actually spend time just enjoying my husband’s company.
So my grievances aren’t huge things. They are the small, everyday, little things, which build up. And I have to work hard to make sure they don’t build up, but that I actively forgive my husband for those things. And I know that he has to forgive me for these things too.
I want to add here that the Bible isn’t saying that we should be passive and let the other person walk all over us and take advantage of us. No, not at all. A marriage is for two people, and both should ‘work’ equally hard at it. One person cannot carry the other at all times: we should be ‘equally yoked.’ So it’s about doing your fair share, and honouring your husband or wife for what he or she does too.
So we are told to forgive ‘As the Lord forgave you.’ We know that we live under grace. We are saved because God chose to forgive us. I don’t know about you, but I want my marriage to be under grace too.
Our marriages need God
Last week, we had Samuel dedicated at our church. As part of the promises we made, we had to commit to strengthening our marriage with the help of God. I don’t remember doing this when we dedicated Ben at our previous church, but it seemed like a good time to acknowledge that we need God at the centre of our marriage. It’s about making our marriage better, and making our marriage a good example of God’s love.
It’s funny, the first time I looked at these verses, I didn’t immediately think they were about marriage. But the more I’ve thought about them, the more I think the spirit of forgiveness and patience is needed within marriage. Of course, they can apply to any relationship, but I’d suggest that marriage is the most important adult relationship for us.
Throughout this post I’ve referred to marriage. That’s because I do believe marriage is the best way for a committed relationship, and I also believe that marriage is the best foundation for children. I don’t want to exclude single parents or unmarried parents from reading this, and I’m sure that the Biblical advice still stands. I guess what I’m saying is that God’s love is good for every relationship.
Next week, Rachel will be sharing her thoughts on 1 Corinthians 13 verse 1. It’s our final Mummy Meditation on Love so I really hope you can join us:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.