You never know what gems you’ll find on the library discard shelf. A few weeks ago I found a little book called Simple Secrets of a Great Marriage by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. PJ and I decided to read the short chapters alone, journal our thoughts, and then come together periodically to discuss them. It’s not that the writing is stellar or that there is anything profound I’ve discovered while working my way through this book, but it has provided refreshing nuggets of truth to think on these days.
Last week’s simple secret was “lavish your partner with grace.” Grace. If you’ve grown up in church, you’ve heard about it, sung about it, memorized Bible verses about it. I still remember the definition I learned as a child — grace is undeserved, unearned favour and kindness. Thank you, Awana Clubs International!
Paul told the Ephesians that salvation is by grace through faith. It’s a gift from God, not something we achieve by working for it. So none of us can boast about being in right relationship with God. All of us are equally desperate for grace. We all have empty places in our lives that ache to be filled with a kindness we don’t deserve. Even when we are selfish and rebellious and our hearts want nothing to do with God, that ache never goes away, try as we might to assuage it with anything but Him. And even when we are deliberately running from His plans for us, He knows that what we need more than anything is love and kindness…grace!
I love the Bible verse that says God’s kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Yes, there is judgment coming for those who won’t acknowledge God for who He is. But God is patiently waiting and giving us every opportunity to let His grace melt our hardened hearts. He doesn’t desire to bring judgment or destruction on anyone! That is NOT the heart of God! That is a lie that the enemy of our souls has been whispering to us since the dawn of time. But let me whisper…no, let me shout…the truth in your ear today. God loves you. God is for you. He wants to woo you with His grace. Open your heart, and let it rush in. It will find its way into all those thirsty crevices where even the grace of your dearest loved ones can’t reach.
We are so blessed to live at this point in human history. I know people complain all the time about the state of our fallen world. And I agree that sin is destructive, and darkness hangs heavy around us. But on this side of the cross, we are living under grace! We don’t have to live our lives under the burden of God’s law. A law that can’t budge, can’t forgive, can’t redeem. A law that condemns us everyday, even before our feet hit the floor. What a glorious thing it is to live under grace…to know the absolute acceptance of a holy God, to never have to question His love. Because of Jesus and because of the cross, that is the gift God offers to every single person on this sin-ridden planet! And when we live in the knowledge and experience of God’s grace to us, we have grace to pass on to others.
Our little marriage book caused me to ask an interesting question last week. Is my marriage relationship living under law or under grace? Do we extend love only when the other deserves it or has earned it? If so, we are living in lifeless bondage to the law. But grace can breathe new life into a marriage when it is extended simply because we both need it, not because of how we perform. That’s a beautiful picture for any relationship. How are your relationships operating? Under “law” or under “grace”?
With that being said, there is no way a husband and wife can supply all the grace that their partner yearns for. Our need for grace goes far beyond what any human could meet. A healthy marriage, operating under grace, requires each spouse to connect with God for the lifeblood of grace they are so desperate for. Then, the grace extended to one another becomes the “icing on the cake” instead of just a “drop in the bucket” of those needy, grace-craving caverns inside us.
While God’s grace alone saves souls, the grace we extend to others has a sort of “saving” power of its own. It can’t achieve eternal salvation, but it can rescue relationships and restore hope! It turns the tide of a hopeless situation like harshness or criticism or judgment never, ever could. Grace sacrifices and stretches farther than it thinks it can. Grace is not obsessed with what self deserves but with what another needs. It reaches. It gives. It rescues. We all need grace…from God and from each other! Surprise someone with grace today!