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    Three Revolutionary Words

    April 27, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    When Si and I first got married, we had an agreeable honeymoon followed shortly by an argument. I distinctly remember that it had something to do with bathroom towels, and also that I was the one who was wrong. God graciously gave me children in order to prevent me from continuing in a life of pettiness. Not only do children often heal us from our own selfishness, but they also make us too tired to care about silly things like towels.

    I spent my weekend in a sort of morose nostalgic stupor, if there is such a thing, and in that time my mind wandered back to our early days together. That was when it dawned on me that there was more to the story than “I got pregnant,” even though I do have personal evidence that I have been saved through childbearing.

    It was Si who taught me to forgive.

    In fact, I titled this post after the simple phrase that I had never put into practice before our marriage: I forgive you.

    I have found myself uttering this phrase repeatedly throughout our marriage {and he has, too, of course, being not perfect and all that}, and I believe this simple habit has probably been our saving grace.

    And why not? For forgiveness is the foundation of the ultimate Saving Grace.

    I remember the first time Si suggested that we actually say the words, “I forgive you.” I fought him tooth and nail! I told him it felt fabricated, and what did it matter as long as we act like we forgive each other? But eventually, since I believe in submission, I broke down and did it.

    This was a healing moment for my soul.

    The act of verbalizing forgiveness has cleared up a lot in our marriage, I think. For instance, when he apologizes, he knows we aren’t done until I’ve said that I actually forgive him. When I don’t say it, he knows I’m still holding on. In contrast, when I say it {or he says it, more often, since I have more failings than he does}, he knows we are done fighting, that reconciliation has begun.

    This is because he also taught me to discipline my words to match my heart.

    On a couple occasions, I refused to forgive for a couple days. This wasn’t due to any horrible deed on his part, but rather to the fact that my heart was hardened toward him. I didn’t want to forgive him. I wanted to hold on to my injury and wield it like a weapon.

    And he, being so patient with me, tolerated this. And then I forgave, and we both knew that the past was truly past, and would never be remembered again, for what is forgiveness without choosing to forget the wrongs which have been done?

    And now, I am teaching my children the lesson their daddy taught to me. Forgive each other, little ones, as Christ has forgiven and will forgive you. Live a life of love, my children.

    For now, they mostly learn the words, the habit of saying it. This is actually very powerful for them, for how many of us grew up saying, “It’s okay” as a lame, weak substitute when in fact the sin against us was emphatically not okay, which is why we were angry in the first place? To say that they forgive is to not only agree to let go of another’s wrong, but also to declare that it was wrong in the first place.

    My children wronged a neighbor of ours recently. I marched them next door to apologize and the woman told me that it was okay. I looked her in the eye and told her that it was not okay. They were wrong, and they needed to apologize. Their eyes were wide as they told her they were sorry and they’d never do it again. I couldn’t tell what she appreciated more, their apology, or the acknowledgement that a sin against her was not okay.

    God is like this. He doesn’t say that it’s okay. He simply says He forgives. And this is, of course, what we need. We need our wrongs forgotten and forgiven so that we can be free, once again, from the haunting of our sins.

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    1 Comment

  • Reply Mystie April 27, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    It’s starting to become practically obligatory to comment on each other’s posts. 🙂

    My husband also insisted we say “Please forgive me” and “I forgive you” early on in our marriage. It has been a blessing. Most of the friends with whom we spend time also have their children ask for and extend forgiveness, which has certainly helped reinforce that it is normal and right with our children.

    You are right, there is nothing like marriage and children to be a refiner’s fire for selfishness. 🙂

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