Marriage looks so beautiful in movies, between the glamorous weddings, the luxurious honeymoons, and the Pinterest-worthy houses to raise beautiful Gap model children in. The problem with this image is it leaves no room for two things: sin and grace. Because the world we live in is flawed, all marriages will experience hindrances, hiccups, and disappointments. Literally every marriage in the world is made up of sinners, and two sinners combining lives does not equal utopia. This sounds stupid, but before I got married, I had no idea how sinful I really am. Married life makes you very aware of how selfish you are and reminds you of the fact that your mistakes (and deliberate sinful choices) DO affect other people, whether you mean for them to or not.
If you grew up in church, you probably heard the same thing I did over and over – that no sin is too big for God to forgive. It sounds great, right? I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard a version of that sentence. I’ve even said that sentence to other people myself. And yet somehow, after over two decades of existing on this planet, I found myself empty on one particular night, broken and convinced that God’s forgiveness couldn’t possibly extend to me.
I’ll spare you the details, but I genuinely can’t remember a time when I’ve been more wrecked over the sin in my life than I was that night. My own selfishness finally caught up with me (I was living proof of Numbers 32:23 – “You may be sure that your sin will find you out”), and Daniel got caught in the crossfire. The ugliest moments of my life were laid bare, and I felt hollow, completely exposed and ashamed. I couldn’t see how on earth God could cover this situation with His grace – why would someone who claimed to love Him be so defiant and self-centered?? How could He look at me, weak and muddy and disobedient, and still love me? Still want me? My head spun with condemning thoughts straight from hell: “I can’t believe you did this. You’re a horrible person. If you really loved God, you would act like it. And how could you hurt Daniel that way? You must not even care about him. You’ll never be able to move on from this. This is one of the worst things you could ever do. This will haunt you for the rest of your life.” And on, and on, and on. I was teetering on the edge of really believing those things, and it was paralyzing.
But then an incredible thing happened.
Daniel – my husband, my partner, my friend, the person I had just hurt – became a tender instrument of God, whispering words of grace over me, his voice slowly but surely drowning out the accusing background noise. He quoted Romans 8:1, reminding me that there is NO condemnation for me in Christ, including condemnation from myself. I couldn’t do or say anything; I just sat there and drank in the truth he (and He) was speaking, emotionally and spiritually spent, my heart aching but becoming whole again.
That’s what marriage is. It’s not just planning a wedding, going on a honeymoon, and trying to coexist for the next 50+ years without being miserable. It’s FORGIVING each other. It’s being willing to be the strong one when the other person is weak. It’s choosing to love when the other person doesn’t deserve it. It’s finding the tiny cracks and crevices in their heart and pouring grace into them until they’ve healed.
That experience revealed a chasm within me that I didn’t even know existed. For years, I had been more than willing to believe in God’s grace and forgiveness for other people – but I couldn’t believe it for myself. Anytime I failed, I condemned myself repeatedly, frustrated by my own imperfection. I held myself to an impossible standard and was doomed to a life of disappointment. I think there’s something about our frail humanity that makes it difficult for us to accept something we don’t feel we deserve, including God’s grace toward us. We are totally right to believe that we’ll never be good enough, but when we are in Him, there is no need for self-condemnation. Jesus’s blood covered it ALL, and God’s forgiveness is all we need. If you’ve confessed your sin to God and truly repented, don’t continue to live a life overcome by guilt and regret. His grace is enough.
When I think about how lucky I am to be married to someone who personifies God’s grace to me, words fail me. Daniel continues to love me through my most unlovable of moments and has preached the Gospel to me with words AND actions more than anyone else in my life. We’ve packed a whole lot of life into 4 years, and I can’t wait for more!
What a sweet day. I’m glad the joy didn’t end there. ♥
Photo credit: Anna Lee Photography and Catie Bartlett Photography