We’ve spent the last several weeks talking about rescuing marital relationships from the rocks. We can all agree: marriage is not for the faint of heart. We are flesh and blood people, terribly prone to injury and insult. We’ve agreed with our spouse to float the waters of life: stormy, rocky and even pirate-infested. Now we have to figure out just how to survive it. This month on the blog, we’re unpacking tools to help us navigate rough waters. Last week, we remembered the heights. This week we’re repenting of sin. But first, a Bible story.
“This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching form India to Cush.” (Esther 1:1 NIV)
Many of us are familiar with the story of Esther and her extraordinary timing and bravery on behalf of the Jews. We probably haven’t invested much mental energy on Xerxes and the queen that came before the famous one. Their story is told in chapter one.
King Xerxes threw a party, but not the paltry affair you’re thinking of. Xerxes was essentially peacocking: all his wealth on full display. For half a year, he paraded and preened in front of his friends and neighbors. At the end of this six month spectacle – I’m tired just thinking about it – he threw a meal to end all meals; larger than life, incredibly opulent feast-for-the-senses sort of dinner party. Xerxes set no drink restrictions so he and his buddies got totally plastered. Meanwhile, his wife, Vashti, was hosting the feminine counterpart to his highfalutin’ hoe-down.
It was from this drunken stupor that Xerxes demanded his queen’s presence. Understand, he wasn’t asking for a pop-in. He wanted her in full royal regale, crown and all. In fact, original text suggests he was expecting her in only her crown, which would be terribly humiliating for a woman of her stature.
I feel for this wife! Six months of party-hosting had culminated in a final grand gala. This royal lady had to be wiped out socially. Her husband’s impulsive order to appear before him and his drunken friends pushed her over the edge. She refused her king. And in response he did away with her. Executed or banished, either way the marriage was over.
Days or months or years later, Xerxes anger subsided and by the next chapter, he had regrets. Ruling a kingdom without a queen is a lonely and difficult gig, I’m sure. Xerxes did what most divorced folks do: he made a second attempt at marriage without examining the remains of the first.
This is where I play the wondering game. I wonder what would have happened if he had slowed down in his drunken fury long enough to reconsider? What if he had consulted scripture or a priest instead of his inebriated advisors? What if he had sought out Vashti and apologized for being inconsiderate by piling another thing on her?
Let’s consider the other side of the conflict, too. Vashti blatantly disregarded her husband’s wishes. She embarrassed him in front of his friends. She very well may have held contempt for him in her heart.
There are two sides to every story and blame enough to go around in every marriage. Imagine with me, what a little repentance could have accomplished in the royal couple’s union. Humility and heartfelt apologies go a long way in restoring relationship. Which brings me to our second step in rescuing marriage from the rocks: repentance.
We fear repentance because we wrongly believe it will bring even more shame. The truth is, repentance relieves shame. Confession actually sets us free. Admission of guilt offers an opportunity to begin again.
So where do we begin? Repentance will require our serious evaluation of our own contribution to the current state of things. Ask the Spirit of God to reveal your heart issues.
Here are some good questions to consider:
Have I neglected this relationship?
How have I taken my spouse for granted?
Have I been insensitive to their feelings or needs?
Have I escalated when I should have de-escalated?
Am I putting my own needs above my spouse’s needs?
Have I nagged?
Have I been disrespectful?
Have I ignored completely, have I shut my spouse out?
Have I spoken or behaved in an unloving manner?
What contribution is my sinful nature making in our marriage story?
Prayerfully ask these questions and repent when sin is revealed. I like the way Romans 12:18 puts it; “If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live at peace with all everyone.”
Everyone includes your spouse. Paul, via the Holy Spirit, is instructing us to live at peace; harmlessly and inoffensively with all people. Even the people closest to us.
I have always found it interesting the way he frames this; If it is possible, as much as it depends on you. It’s doubly reinforced that we should do everything short of sin to get along with others. There aren’t a lot of outs for bad behavior in relationship. Especially when that other shares our home and our bedroom and our flesh. They are a pretty important ‘other.’ You might even say they our most significant ‘other’.
We should probably spend more time praying for our spouse than any other earthly relationship because there is no union that Satan would like to destroy more than our marriage. If he can sink the couple, he can likely sink the kids. In fact, sunken marriages send a crashing waves throughout a family, community and eternity.
In the coming week, I encourage you to take a long, prayerful look at your contribution to your marriage. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any of your shortcomings. And then repent because healing follows repentance. Watch God restore what sin has threatened to destroy.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16 NIV)
Lord, today we realize we are heavy contributors to the dysfunction in our marriage. Help us, Holy Spirit, to see ourselves accurately and confess freely. Restore what sin has attempted to destroy. Renew our relationship and begin healing in our home. Amen.
Leave a Reply