This post on Sacred Marriage: Falling Forward was written by Jeffrey Chen, who is pursuing a Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy at Fuller Theological Seminary. Jeffrey has a passion for sharing God’s love with those around him. He blogs at The Wayvy Life.
Hey everybody! Welcome back to our series on “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas. Last week we talked about embracing difficulties in marriage. This week builds off of that, as we discuss Chapter 10 titled “Falling Forward: Marriage Teaches Us to Forgive”. As we have noted in previous posts, conflict and challenges are part of any marriage and are bound to happen no matter how healthy a relationship is. This week we will be talking about the goal we want to have when obstacles do arise.
So what is the goal? The goal is to fall forward. It can be easy to consider an argument with our spouse as a setback, but this does not necessarily have to be the case. As a matter of fact, it can actually be an opportunity for tremendous growth in your marriage if you are able to handle it properly. While counter-intuitive, problems that can threaten to tear you apart from your spouse can instead bring you closer than you ever have been before.
Unfortunately, falling forward is not the natural response, especially when our partner makes a mistake. Your spouse is a sinner just like you, and will not always say or do the right thing. They will hurt you and anger you over and over again, hopefully unintentionally but sometimes even intentionally. For example, a spouse may show up late to a date after promising to be there on time, or call you names they know you don’t like in the midst of an argument. You are likely to become overwhelmed by your emotions as a result, wanting to yell at them, drop snarky comments, act coldly towards them, or tear up in sadness.
Do not dismiss these emotions that may stir up in you. They are necessary to feel and notice. Yet, do your best to not escalate the conflict further by using your emotions to retaliate and hurt your partner back. Take a deep breath. Calmly let your partner know how you are feeling and why. Then, fall forward. Have grace for your spouse and forgive them for their misstep. This is what Jesus did with those who went against Him. This is what Thomas means by falling forward. He writes that he believes “one of marriage’s primary purposes is to teach us how to forgive.”
In other words, as one of the Christian cliches goes, “Hate the sin but love the sinner.” When your spouse hurts you, resist the urge to push yourselves further apart. Avoid further distancing yourself from them. Instead, move towards them. Take a step forward instead of a step backward. Often, a helpful tip to do this is by looking at how you treat yourself when you mess up. Many of us may dislike our lack of courage, our greed, or our selfishness, but we still love ourselves. We may not be proud of what we do, but we tend to give ourselves grace at the end of the day.
We must try to do the same with our spouse. I love how Thomas concludes the chapter by writing in summary, “We can respond to bitter juice by becoming bitter people, or we can use it as a spiritual discipline and transform its exercise into the honey of a holy life.” Struggles are a part of marriage. My hope is that you can react to them in a way that does not push you further from your spouse, but rather pulls you closer to them and ultimately to God.
As always, please feel free to reach out to me for feedback, questions, suggestions on topics, or anything else. I’m happy to chat about anything and everything. I hope you can take away something helpful from this post. You can reach me at email@example.com!
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