I shamed my husband, Edric, in front of two of our sons last night, as dinner came to a close. It was one of those moments when I didn’t mind my tongue like I should have.
Elijah asked his dad to pass the dipping sauce, but Edric, who was caught up in another conversation, failed to hear him. Finally, I handed the sauce to Elijah who commented, “Dad didn’t hear me even when I kept asking.”
Perhaps it was the manner in which he released the words from his mouth that Edric found disrespectful. There may have been a hint of contempt in his tone which disturbed Edric and incited him to address Elijah rather sternly, “Were you mocking me? Don’t mock me.”
I felt like Edric came across too strong, like a male wildcat trying to subjugate another for posing a threat to his position as alpha. (We just came from a Safari so pardon the paltry attempt at including wildlife imagery.)
When Edric asked Elijah to apologize to him for his disrespect, I blurted out, albeit in a soft voice to seem less combative, “You (Edric) should also apologize to Elijah.”
“Excuse me?” Edric didn’t appreciate my meddling.
“The way you said what you did was hurtful,” I retorted matter-of-factly.
He requested that I stay out of the dialogue between Elijah and him but something primal in me kicked in (there I go again with the wildlife), and my maternal instinct to protect what I perceived to be a wounded child became manifest in an ugly way. I should have bit my tongue and waited for a more opportune moment to give my perspective, which Edric would have received peaceably. However, I wanted to say what I wanted to say and I hastily pointed out what I interpreted as a parenting error on Edric’s part. So I added, “If you want to be respected, be respectable.”
Oh my!!! How could I have said that in front of the kids?!
Further exacerbating the situation for me was the fact that in the weeks prior we had been serving from a platform, talking about parenting! How could we be violating the very principles we shared so passionately to others to apply in their families?
Edric gave me a dagger look that warned me to quit because we were contending with one another in front of our sons. So I kept silent until they exited the table to join their siblings upstairs.
Meanwhile, Edric and I duked out our issues. There was no shouting, cursing or heated dialoguing but we wrestled with our prideful spirits which reared their heads at different points in the hour that passed. We talked about what we both did wrong and what we didn’t like about what each other did or said. Edric was obviously offended and hurt by the statements I made and the untimeliness of my interjection. And I thought he had been more reactive towards our kids as of late.
In the end, we came to the conclusion that Edric would apologize to Elijah for his style of correcting and I apologized to Edric for cutting into his discussion with Elijah, and for disrespecting him. Furthermore, we had a family conference with our kids to ask how we could improve after asking for forgiveness from them for our bad examples. The kids readily forgave us and went on to play the game “Marco Polo Freeze” in our bedroom with Edric.
Edric and I were able to go to bed at peace having resolved our conflict. Although it wasn’t easy to suppress our pride when we addressed the areas we needed to change, we both knew that the God-honoring thing was to humble ourselves, ask for forgiveness, and commit to be better spouses to each other and better parents to our kids.
If I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus it would be nearly impossible for Edric and I to reconcile our differences. We are so opposite in our personalities. Sometimes our personalities polarize us and it’s a struggle to bridge the gap that divides us. There are things about him that I immensely dislike and there are things about me that totally annoy him, too. (I praise God that through the years I have learned to appreciate most everything about him, even the aspects of his person that I used to react to.)
The crazy thing is this morning I woke up to the sight of him as he sat on the edge of our bed readying himself to face the day and my first thought was, I love him so much! There was no trace of anger. In fact I forgot about our quarrel.
How could I think so positively about him when last night I felt such intense irritation towards him? (Is this a schizophrenic relationship or what?!)
Edric and I are two flawed, selfish, and prideful individuals. These personalities are present in both of us. Yet we also gave our lives to Jesus Christ many years ago, and till this day He works in Edric and me, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to weed out what is undesirable so that we act more like Him and less like our ugly selves. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.” (Romans 8:2-3)
The above passages explains that Christ set us free from our sinful tendencies like pride, anger, and selfishness by giving His life up for us. It goes on to say in Romans 8:5-8, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God…”
In other words, when we don’t have Christ, we cannot make decisions and choices that lead to true life and peace. We cannot fix our marriages or our relationships because we simply do not have the capacity to. It reveals how we cannot even please God because we are enemies of God and what He wills for us.
It’s no wonder why so many of us quit on our marriages when God is against us doing so. Apart from the Spirit at work in us, we will follow what our flesh desires and wants. We will insist on our wills. But there is hope! Let’s look at the rest of Romans 8…
“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him…”
We can think and act differently from what is expected of our fleshly selves (like I can be reconciled to my husband, ask for forgiveness and choose to love him), because of the Spirit of God. Since we can think and act in ways that please God because of the Holy Spirit, then we very well should! We should not live “according to the flesh” which still exists in us, but “put to death the deeds of the body.” (Romans 8:12-14)
In eternity, we will not have to deal with the weaknesses of the flesh. Whew. Thank God. Instead there will be a “redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23) We can look forward to the hope that one day we will be set free COMPLETELY from having to battle the inclinations of the flesh.
Now what does this have to do with marriage and reconciliation? If Edric and I didn’t have the Holy Spirit in our lives, we would not be together today. We would not be enjoying our marriage the way we do. I know countless other couples who would echo the same.
Last night’s example of a fight would have escalated further or we would have buried the hurt and resurfaced it as anger and bitterness. But thanks be to God because reconciliation is possible time and time again. The cycle of new-mercies-every-morning is not dependent on us, as flawed, changeable human beings. It is dependent on who God is and His Spirit in us, transforming us from within so we can love and forgive.
When I think about how Edric and I will journey into the future, fully conscious that we still have the propensity to hurt each other and make mistakes, my heart is filled with hope. It’s not because we have a great marriage, but because we have a GREAT GOD who is committed to us!
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)