In this series we’ve entitled, He’s Not Your Prince Charming, we have been talking about two main themes:
- That only Jesus can and will satisfy your deep and ongoing need to be fully loved and satisfied.
- That He, in return, asks you to pour that love of His onto your husband relationally, sexually, emotionally, and spiritually.
All this talk, as of late, about loving our men sexually has brought up a whole lot of reasons why that is not always easy. The sheer vulnerability, which open, unfettered sexual expression presupposes, requires so much from a woman. Trust, acceptance, respect, affection, and an effort to give ourselves to a man who is not always what we wish he’d be.
But there is another element of this kind of husband-loving and what impedes us that keeps coming up in your emails and comments and messages to me.
Your need to forgive him for the hurts he has caused… and your need to forgive yourself for your past failures.
And so, for the next couple of weeks I plan to address these issues because I think its time we all moved past the resentment that makes us crabby and cranky and cold to our men.
And because this is a conversation and I’m sitting outside a coffee shop with a lovely, foamy cappuccino by my side while we “talk”, I need to prepare you for the messiness of these kinds of dialogues. We are women, after all, and hold a certain right to go off on rabbit trails to topics we deem relevant to whatever it is we’re trying to say. Just sayin’.
For today though, I’ll simply tell you a story…
Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess. (Isn’t that just the best way to start any story?)
This princess had everything she needed. Castles and riches and luxury and freedom to become more and more beautiful every day. Her future stretched out before her in one long litany of hope.
Her life would be good, great. She would live forever in this place of continual delight and hope.
This princess was an exceedingly generous person. Every day she doled out gifts to her servants, sprinkling fairy dust doses of good will and help to everyone she encountered.
One day she discovered that her most trusted manager had been swindling her. Millions of dollars were missing and the evidence pointed unequivocally to this man. She was shocked. Angry. Hurt. Feelings of betrayal and unbelief swept over her. She had trusted him, believed in him, been generous with him.
The man was promptly brought to justice, cast from her presence and imprisoned in the darkest dungeon. Perhaps if she never had to see him again, she would come free of the terrible pain he had caused her by his disloyalty.
Then one day, she received an urgent message. “Please, please, forgive me for my terrible folly,” the man wrote with shaky hand. “I cannot live in this place a moment longer, have mercy on me— I promise I will repay you every penny!”
After much soul searching, the princess agreed to set him free from that dark place of shame, knowing there was no possible way he could ever repay her for the harm he’d done. Out of the generosity of her heart, she chose to forgive the man and release him from the debt he owed.
That very day, the prisoner was set free. Breathing deeply of the fresh air, soaking in the sunshine, he danced for the joy of his unexpected, undeserved freedom. He’d been given a second chance and he was determined to succeed.
Coming down the walkway toward him, he spotted a lowly messenger boy he’d once lent a little bit of money. “Ah ha!” he murmured, “Here’s my ticket to a new start.”
Taking the surprised boy by the neck, he shook him hard. “You owe me money! Give it now, this instant! Or I will have you thrown in the debtor’s prison where you will rot until you pay me back.”
As happens in a small kingdom like the one she ruled, word of this encounter soon got back to the princess. Her heart fell, grief welling once again to the surface.
How could he, forgiven of so much, fail to forgive so small a debt?
Justice for the man’s terrible injustice required that the princess revoke the man’s pardon immediately. She sent him back to the darkness where he would wallow alone in his own bitterness.
(You can read the real story, told by Jesus to his crabby and competing and conflict riddled disciples in Matthew 18)
Every time I read that story I realize again how much forgiving real-life love requires.
All those bumps and bruises that happen as we figure out how to do life together.
All the disappointments when one of us isn’t there for the other in the way we need.
All those loose words that come rushing out of hidden places, cutting and saying and hurting deep.
Each hurt must be looked at honestly and forgiven thoroughly or else we end up stuffing our insides full of hostility.
The only possible way to forgive every one of those hurts is to fully embrace the forgiveness offered by Jesus and then to choose with a heroic act of our will to forgive for His sake.
Make believe doesn’t work here girls. You can’t pretend he didn’t mean it or it doesn’t hurt or you’re not mad. That’s just stuffing it and as we all know, that ugliness has a way of either seeping out of our pours or blowing up in our faces.
And making excuses isn’t effective in the long run. He’s tired, pressured, stressed… but that can only go on for so long and then what?
A bitter, hardened attitude can set in when there’s always a reason for his bad mood or his failure to love well once again.
Neither does it work to choke him until he “gets it” and turns into a charming prince full of golden words and deeds all for you. Correcting and reminding and calling him on every slip will turn you into a nagging crab in no time.
Only forgiveness heals the hurt. Daily, weekly, hourly, moment-by-moment forgiving the man for being so unfailingly human. That’s what God gives you and me. And that’s what He asks us in turn to give our men.
If you want to have a really great friendship with this man for years and decades until “death do us part”, you’re going to have to learn the art of forgiving and giving grace.
Next week I’ll be giving you some treasures from my long time mentor, Muriel Cook. This is a woman who shines with love for her husband, Norm. For now, I’ll just leave you with a snatch of her wisdom to think about this week:
“I’ve learned that a lack of forgiveness is the root of most problems. In almost every problem situation, after peeling off the layers of grief and distress, I find a wounded spirit or an unresolved resentment. Usually, it is the result of a hurt that hasn’t been dealt with or a pain that hasn’t been relinquished to God.” From Kitchen Table Counseling by Muriel Cook
From a heart still learning,
P.S. Do you have any questions about forgiveness that you’d like me to address? Or wisdom that works in this messy process of becoming a forgiving woman? Not the theory, so much, as the practical reality? We’re all needing whatever words you can give. Thank you!