We have poured a foundation for our marriage on Christ - to Whom we go for fulfillment, affirmation, acceptance and satisfaction - and have put up the frame work of submission - in humility yielding the right of way to our husband, even when we feel his decision isn't the best or what we wanted. Before we put the walls up, we need to wire the house with electricity. Without electricity, we would be surrounded by darkness. I don't believe there is anything that shrouds a marriage in darkness more than unforgiveness. To bring light into our home, we must forgive. Without forgiveness, we live in a dark and gloomy home and everyone who shares our house with us dwells in the same darkness.
When my husband and I get to this section in our marriage classes, this is where we either have huge break throughs or drop outs to the class. After doing the forgiveness exercise, people either return completely renewed, or never return to our class at all, depending on whether they were able to follow through on the exercise. I remember one couple in particular: a beautiful young married pair they were. Both came from unbelievably strong Christian roots, with Christians dating back as far as they could remember in their family. A delightful couple. We loved them instantly and thought them the perfect pair. When they returned after the forgiveness exercise, I was astonished to see the wife had a completely new countenance. Though she was kind before, their was a peace about her that wasn't there before. I hadn't noticed that she was high strung before, but now that she emanated peace and joy, I could see the difference between how she was before and after. In one week, she had become a new person - and she literally glowed, proclaiming to the group the affect forgiveness had on her. She told me privately that she didn't even know how much these things her spouse had done years before when they were dating- she didn't tell me what they were - had affected her. She didn't realize she had not forgiven him, but once she chose to forgive him, she now could feel a total transformation in her spirit and her home.
Remember that verse from Proverbs I mentioned before, "A wise woman builds her house, but a foolish one tears it down with her own hands." I'm convinced that unforgiveness is the quickest path to destroying a home. I believe this because I have seen the affects, not just in those our marriage classes, but in my own home, and I have known personally the transformation that occurs by practicing forgiveness.
The fact is, you are married to a human being. So, you have been hurt by him. He has hurt you dreadfully at times. You may think you have forgiven him for that thing (or those things) he did. I'll tell you how to know for certain you have forgiven. When you think of that thing he did, do you feel in your body "a high octane ping" that sort of jabs you for a second? That little twinge is unforgiveness. The way you know for certain you have forgiven is if when you think back on the event or thing he did and you have no physical, mental or emotional reaction even for the slightest second. If you can think back and thank God for the event - because of how God has used it to form Himself in you - you are all the way there in forgiveness.
If you still have a few things, a few little nagging issues you would rather not think about, because it kinda hurts, and it never does any good to rehearse the situation, it's time to dredge it up - not between you and your husband, but between you and God. For you have buried something, thinking it wasn't affecting your marriage or your life because you aren't thinking about it. But that little ping you get when you do think about it means it is affecting your life. That ping is something we call bitterness. No one wants to think of themselves as a bitter person. However, if we have something we buried, we have a bitter root deep down inside. Sadly, that bitter root is not hidden, it springs up and the Bible tells us in Hebrews that it defiles others. That means, when others get in our way - usually family members - they get hurt by us. It's like having a glass heart that has been broken. The glass pieces are still there and whenever we are irritated or bothered, those broken shards scatter lodging into those that are closest to us. Our broken heart cuts up others at times. That is how bitterness defiles, it darkens a home. Sometimes our unforgiveness is not aimed at our spouse, but parents, friends - or enemies - from the past who have damaged us so much we can't find forgiveness for them. We don't think they deserve forgiveness (and they probably don't, but then again, neither do we deserve forgiveness from God.)
If you have some pings in your heart, some broken shards that may be affecting others (with yelling, silent treatments, sarcasm or other unkind reactions), there is such an incredibly simple - so simple it seems too good to be true - remedy to this. First, we must acknowledge that we have not forgiven this person for this thing. I personally recommend making a list, asking the Lord to bring to your mind every single person that you have not forgiven in your entire life. You see, even one unforgiven person is like a faulty wire that causes the entire electrical circuit of your home to not work. Ifyou haven't done this before, it might take a while to make the list.
Then, during a special time with God, go over each person or event and ask God to forgive you. You're wondering if I wrote that correctly. It wasn't a typo. Yes, ask God to forgive you because you have been in sin, the sin of unforgiveness. We must call it what it is. You see, God is extremely adamant about our forgiving others. You remember the huge debt that He forgave you of? No, you didn't do that thing that that person did to you. That's true. But if you add up every single one of your sins against God - every day you lived for you alone - every thought that was unkind, every word, every deed or ommission and commission from before salvation to today, you have sinned enormously against God. A huge debt. And this person has hurt you - a sinner who deserves to go to hell, and really doesn't have the "right" to have everyone treat you with honor, as God does. But you have chosen to not forgive them. That's a sin.
Jesus tells us that we should pray "forgive us our debts, as - in the exact same way, with the same measure, with the same completeness - we forgive others." The words in italics are mine, placed in there to describe what the word "as" insinuates. Jesus goes on to tell us "For if you forgive men their wrongdoing against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don't forgive men their wrongs, neither will your Father in heaven forgive you."
Now, I believe we are saved by faith in Christ alone. That, and that alone is our ticket into heaven. We aren't saved by works. So what does that mean? Well, if you look at the story of the king who forgave the huge debt to the man, who then turned around and wouldn't forgive a smaller debt that someone owed to him - then the king made him pay for that unforgiveness - you'll find the answer at the end of the story. Jesus says that God will turn us over to the tormentors. The tormentor is bitterness. Bitterness torments our soul aggressively - a broken heart causes us to bleed profusely when something only slightly bumps into those broken pieces of glass. God can repair that broken heart, he can place back into wholeness every tiny shard of glass that has been hurting us and others. When we choose to forgive, we get the supernatural repair of the Lord. Isaiah 61:1 "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." It's time to be set free from the tormentor that has kept us in bondage with unforgiveness. But we must first acknowledge unforgiveness for what it is: sin.
Once we have repented for the sin of unforgiveness, we then make the choice to forgive the perpetrator who hurt us - and everyone who was involved. Feeling forgiving is not required. Choosing to forgive is all that is required, God will bring the feelings of forgiveness later. We must first make the choice to forgive, though it is hard, because it is the right thing to do. It is what we must do for God, for our selves, for our family. It doesn't make it okay what that person did. But it does set you free, and heals your broken heart.
Once you have gone through your entire list, person by person. This could take a few days. You must remember to stand firm in your forgiveness. When thoughts of that person and their crime against you come back - just remind yourself that you have forgiven and ask the Lord to remove the hurt, pain and any thoughts that do not honor Him from your mind. Stand firm against the enemy who has been displaced and had his foothold removed. He will try to get back his foothold by rehearsing the entire thing back to you, dredging up all the pain. Don't let him. Bring all your thoughts into captivity for Christ. Cast down the imaginations of the enemy who wants you to imagine the whole scenario again. Just say "No." Resist the devil and he will flee. Read 2 Corinthians 10:5 for encouragement in this.
Now you have fixed all the faulty wiring and brought electricity and the glorious light of the Lord into your home. But remember that you still live with a sinner and so, you will need to continue the practice of forgiveness in order to retain good wiring. Don't let future wrongs blow out your circuit board. Choose to forgive regularly and teach your children to do the same. It will bring such a blessed peace to your home.