Monday, February 22, 2010

Marriage Mondays ~ Fight, Flight, Forgive?

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Did you watch the United States vs. Canada in Olympic hockey Sunday night? I have friends who are hockey lovers, but my one and only live hockey game was ... well, traumatic. Somewhere between the bloody faces smashed against the glass in front of me and the woman knocked out by a flying puck behind me, I decided it just wasn't my thing. ;) I know, I know... Some of you will tell me I'm missing so much excitement. Maybe I'll try again someday. But I can watch it from the safety of my living room, which is good ... and no one's front tooth will end up in my popcorn box. ;) One thing I remember though: it only takes one push or punch or undercut to stir up a major fight and end in disaster!

Marriage is like hockey. No one thinks that when they walk the aisle of matrimony and take their vows, but some couples will face a horrible moment in life together when betrayal is committed and their commitment to each other receives a punch sending some into a horrible fight that may end in disaster. I'm not talking about forgetting a birthday or interrupting a football game or leaving socks in the floor. I'm talking about the deep pain experienced when one discovers there has been unfaithfulness like an attack, bringing up walls of protection and defense.

Every couple experiences stress, disappointment, and offense requiring grace and forgiveness. Jeff and I have had the opportunity to counsel many couples who have gone to painful places, though, when one partner becomes aware they have been deceived. It is a moment of decision, and so much of their future together depends on whether the couple chooses fight, flight, or forgiveness.

When a couple is sharing the painful unfolding of betrayal, it visibly hurts them to get out the story, to share it out loud and to accept it is their story. They need grace, wisdom, compassion, truth, and time. The danger is that when we feel emotionally punched and our trust is slammed up against a wall, the instinct of our flesh is to fight or to run. We do not have the instinct to forgive; that has to be a God thing.

I've seen the anguish in the eyes of a spouse as they wrestle with wanting to lash out and protect what they have left, all the while wanting to just point an angry finger and run away, hoping people will surely understand. The Deceiver wants us to believe that if we just get away, we will untangle ourselves from the hurt and pain. The Deceiver wants us to believe that if we fight back we can prevent more wounds from occurring. The hardest thing of all is to stay and to work out the forgiveness and healing that is required. Forgiveness.

Some people marry and live in fear of being betrayed, finding a spouse has had an affair or been unfaithful, but "Perfect love casts out fear," 1 John 4:18.

It would be so wonderful if all we have to do is say "Okay" in response to the invitation to"Come, have a peace." But when we find our life slammed up against the wall, like we've been hit with a crushing blow, it takes commitment to turn to Christ and let Him bring peace to the ugly mess our humanness can bring to the divine relationship of marriage. Can you have peace in the midst of and after the horrible pain of a marital betrayal?

John 16:33

... in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

If you or someone you know has found yourself against a wall in marital betrayal:

  • resist the urge to fight .... commit to finding peace
  • be truthful about running away .... only in Christ do we find help and healing
  • use God's weapons to battle the circumstances ... Ephesians 6:13
  • allow God to use wise counselors to support and guide you ... Proverbs 24:5-7
  • forgiveness is only possible when we focus on how much we have been forgiven ... James 4:6

There will be a lot of hockey this week. Players will be punched and pushed and slammed up against the wall. Will you be watching? I pray that if you're spending Marriage Mondays with me, we'll be ready to return the challenges of marriages with determination to resist the urge to fight or flee when we're hurt, but committed to be people of forgiveness.

2 COMMENTS ~ Click here to leave a COMMENT:

Kristi Stephens said...

Julie, this is such a beautiful and TRUE post.

It is a profoundly Christ-like thing to be deeply wounded and be able to honestly pray, "Father, forgive them..." and forgive them ourselves.

Only God can do that work in our hearts!

Warren Baldwin said...

Very good. I personally think forgiveness is one of the BIGGEST ingredients for a successful, enduring marriage. Some would say fidelity is, and that certainly is one of the BIGGEST, too. But, I have seen marriages survive infidelity when one partner would confess and the other would forgive. Infidelity will certainly kill a marriage, but genuine confession and forgiveness can triumph over the sin.

Good post.