Man, I was sooooo gifted! I was so talented at easily pinpointing all my wife’s faults and telling her exactly what she was doing wrong. However, I felt God challenging me with the question, “How is that working out for you, son?” From his challenge, I learned something extremely powerful about God’s love and grace, and how to extend that love and grace to others.
It all started with the Grace Experiment. It was an idea I received while studying and praying about grace. In an interesting time in my marriage, I decided I was going to give my sweet wife 100 percent grace, forgiveness, patience and kindness for 21 days. You may be thinking that I should be doing that all the time, right?
Well, my sweet wifey was experiencing, shall we say, an interesting time in her life. She was in her 38th week of pregnancy and was exhibiting all of the classic symptoms as outlined by the book, “What To Expect When You’re Expecting.” Those symptoms may have included: diarrhea, nausea , pelvic pressure, discomfort, backaches, hard-core contractions, sleeplessness and crankiness that accompanies no sleep, extreme fatigue, erratic mood swings and anxiety – oh, and on top of all of that, she also had the flu.
Sort of funny, but my poor, poor wife! It wasn’t her fault that these normal symptoms were plaguing her body. Though completely understandable with what she was going through, we can now look back and smile at this time in her life, because we both agree it was probably the least loving and most lacking of patience that she’d exerted during our marriage. Despite that, I’d made a conscious effort to manifest God’s love no matter what she did or how miserable either of us were.
On the first day, I set out in my own strength attempting to love my wife like Christ loves the church, but of course I quickly got impatient and grumpy. I realized that I hadn’t taken the time to receive God’s grace before I attempted to give Wifey God’s grace. Evidently, you can’t give something away that doesn’t belong to you.
The Bible says we can come boldly to the throne of grace, so we can obtain mercy and find grace in to help in time of need. I needed help. I needed grace. So, I spent time in prayer with Jesus and I was comforted and strengthened. I was back in the game! I was running around doing chores, making meals and rubbing feet.
Uh, oh. Wifey wasn’t even saying “thank you.” No compliments, not even the slightest amount of husband worship! Then, I began to hear my inner-voice of self-righteousness saying, “She’s not even grateful when you do such nice things for her! Heck, she would probably never do these amazing things for me.”
I went to God to tattle on her and I was quickly convicted of the fact that God could easily be saying the same thing to me right now. I don’t thank him enough. I wouldn’t ever be able to do anything even close to what God has done for me. Yikes, I was humbled. I praised God for his blessings. He continues to shower me with grace even though my appreciation for it was mediocre at best. To make a long story short, every time I pushed forward to love Wifey in the face of adversity, I learned my own strength wasn’t enough. God continued to reveal his deep love for me as I attempted to give a Godly love to Wifey.
I hunkered into Jesus (in prayer) like never before and began to experience God’s love flowing into me and then out of me. Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord (2 Peter 1:2). I found myself saying things in prayer like, “Lord, please help me to receive your love and grace and be a good steward of it for my wife.”
My grace borders were expanded daily, because for the first time I made love, grace, patience and kindness an absolute focus even when I didn’t FEEL like it. When I experimented with unadulterated grace, not only did it help us avoid conflict, it also began to transform our relationship. As a bonus, Wifey’s heart softened and she was able to see God’s love more clearly – through me, no less! Turns out, many of the times I was finding fault with Wifey, my lack of love and grace was the real problem. Our marriage and lives have never been the same. All glory to God.
Dean Smith is the director of Live To Forgive Ministries and teaches about forgiveness and love in churches and conferences around the nation. Learn more at: www.livetoforgive.com.