If you’re married, have you ever gone back and read through your wedding vows? I did this once and giggled as I read: “…to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part.” (Does a vow mean I must do this?! I’m kidding.) While I know it isn’t everyone’s experience, that first year of marriage was a shock to the system for me, to say the least. My husband was (and remains!!) wonderful, an encouragement, and my greatest love besides the Lord. But in that first year I had (and still have) a problem that affects us all—sin. And so I would quarrel over silly things like the paint color in the living room. Seriously, I didn’t care a lick about things like paint color and then all of a sudden these topics became incredibly important and worth a good fight over. But there were other things we carried into our marriage that made our union both remarkable because of God’s redeeming love and also a fight for us to remember the gospel.
My husband and I entered into marriage with what some might call baggage. So often I remember wishing that our story was different. But alas it is filled with break-ups, confusion, deceit, and shame. My husband and I started dating before we were Christians. And once we became Christians, we barely spoke to one another—not out of spite, but simply because we were protecting one another as we served the Lord. Also, we served in different places – I was involved in campus ministry and he was involved in the singles ministry. When we eventually started dating again, we knew that we’d enter marriage with a history—could God truly redeem all the hurt or were we walking into something that was not wise? We sought pre-marital counseling (it was a requirement of the church) and through a series of helpful conversations and confessions, we realized that God had the power to help us forgive and love.
It wasn’t roses and rainbows from there. As I mentioned earlier, our first year of marriage was tough. We had to continue to work through fears and continue to view one another as God does, covered with the blood and righteousness of Christ. We’d have to suppress old stuff from our old selves and remember we were new creations. Marriage was an exercise of great faith, forgiveness, forbearance, and active love. And then one day, after pursuing God over and over again, it went away. All of the old baggage was buried with our old selves and we were able to walk in the newness of Christ together.
Practically, it meant that we were no longer bringing up old hurts. It was finished. Done away with in full on the cross. God was enabling us to exercise our way of escape by the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 10:13). This is what we all must do if we desire to love and serve till death do us part, but it isn’t natural for us to forgive and forget. We need the power of the Spirit.
Isn’t it good news that God doesn’t hold our sins against us, nor does He deal with us according to our transgressions against him (Psalm 32:2; in turn Psalm 103:10)? He doesn’t bring up the past or remind us of our faults. In Jesus, there’s no condemnation (Romans 8:1). “No” doesn’t mean a little. “No” means none, zero, not an ounce of condemnation to be found because of the blood of the Lamb. As far as the east is from the west, immeasurable, is how far He removes our transgression from us—an evidence of his steadfast and enduring love (Psalm 103:11-12). The implications of this amazing grace, amazing love is, in turn, to experience the freedom of forgiveness from others and the freedom to extend that same forgiveness.
If you find that the missing ingredients to enjoying your spouse is a result of holding on to that old self, ask God to remind you of his everlasting love and forgiveness in Jesus. Remember, you are a new creation. And if you struggle with forgetting the old self of your spouse, constantly viewing them through the lens of sin rather than of grace, remember that he/she is also a new creation. We no longer regard one another according to the flesh, in Christ we are new creations—the old has passed away (1 Cor. 5: 16-17). To fully enjoy one another is to view them with new eyes, saturated in the grace of our Savior.