Crosstied

Four Everyday Graces for an Imperfect Marriage

When God pointed out, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18 CSB), He was moved to do something good for the man and ultimately for the woman. He made them both for each other, showing that the love relationship of a man and woman in marriage is a good gift from God, a demonstration of grace.

Grace did not stop, however, at the union of this first couple. They soon sinned against God and each other. While these lovers were quick to shame and to blame, God was again moved to show grace. They hid, but He found them to correct them for sure, but also to cleanse and to heal them. Knowing their fig leaves could never camouflage their guilt, God tailored new clothes from the skins of an animal to show them just how far grace goes.

Valentine’s Day rightly connects gifts with love. The two naturally go hand in hand, but not necessarily in a way that comes natural to us. We often give gifts to express our love. That is good, but grace does more than show love. Grace makes love possible.

Here are four everyday graces that create an enduring love even in the most imperfect marriage:

The grace to fail

No one likes failure, but every relationship is full of it. The “better or worse” of wedding vows is not an abstract idea, but a practical reality. There are seasons of better and there are seasons of worse. Sometimes the worse is gross sin or betrayal, and sometimes it’s less dramatic than that. Whether the dip is big or small, it always begins with subtle neglect that we allow to grow into something more than it should.

That’s how it went for Adam and Eve. Apparently, Adam simply neglected to adequately pass on God’s command to his wife. Eve showed an interest in the fruit of the tree. Adam was inattentive to her wandering heart, and then present but silent when she fell to the temptation. The explanation of their failure is amazingly run-of-the-mill, but the consequences were no less devastating.

The “worse” was so unnecessary, yet every married couple has been there. He knew better, but he did it anyway. She was warned, but didn’t listen. We have a right to be angry. We have a right to condemn. We have a right to leave, but we don’t have to do any of that because the “worse” is where grace shows up the best.

We do not sin so grace may increase (Romans 6:1), but the failure of our spouse gives grace the chance to shine. The consequences of sin are a good tutor, but the demonstration of grace transforms the relationship and makes space for the lasting love God designed us to experience.

The grace to change

The dust cleared. God removed Adam and Eve from the garden, and then Genesis 4 says, “The man was intimate with his wife Eve.” Their living arrangements had been downgraded, their circumstances had changed, and they were different than before, but they found the grace to let their love grow even outside of the garden.

We are not the same person we were when we said, “I do.” Our spouse has changed too. Our successes shape us, and our difficulties wound us. Experiences reveal our character in a way that was previously unknown and unseen. In time, we discover the ugly realities of sin in each other. Despite declarations of love, we do not always love well, choose well, or forgive well.

We should never overlook or make excuses for sin, but sin is no match for grace. Sin may occasionally win the day, but grace means the scars of sin that disfigure us do not have to destroy our love for one another.

Instead, while success and suffering change us, by grace, they also sanctify us. They make us better, not worse. I do not want my wife to be the woman I married. I don’t want to be who I was back then either. We need each other to be more than that, better than that, and that is the work of grace.

The grace to try

Adam and Eve began their relationship in paradise. When Adam first saw Eve, he immediately said, “This one, at last, is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). They were “naked, yet felt no shame” (Genesis 2:24). Life was really good, and then it wasn’t.

Sin separated them from God and from one another, yet God pursued them, forgave them, and restored them. He was generous with them. But then they did this: they received His grace. Rather than wallowing in the past or holding each other hostage to previous failures, they tried again. There were only two guarantees: (1) life would be harder than ever, and (2) God’s grace was sufficient.

So outside of the garden where clothing was a thing, Adam and Eve gave their love another go. After devastating failure, they restarted their life together.

In a healthy marriage with two flawed people, we discover grace, not grit, makes trying again possible. It’s a humbling thing really. Can you imagine Adam’s sense of regret and then inadequacy after losing so much? How tempting would it have been for him to push the reset button and just try harder to attempt to reestablish his manhood? Grace, however, does not allow us to try harder. It requires we just try again, and this time by trusting God with empty hands and a yielded heart.

The grace to lose

Eve soon gave birth to two sons, Cain and Abel. She knew God had helped her, but we read that as these sons became adults the Lord accepted Abel’s sacrifice of worship, but not Cain’s. “Cain was furious, and he looked despondent” (Genesis 4:5). The Lord warned Cain not to allow sin to rule his heart, but Cain refused to listen and ultimately attacked and killed his brother Abel.

In a way that is remarkably similar to how He responded when Adam and Eve sinned, the Lord confronted Cain. It’s right to assume that God was willing to forgive and restore him, but Cain denied any responsibility for Abel. As a result, the Lord judged him by exiling him as a “restless wanderer on the earth” (Genesis 4:12).

First, Adam and Eve lost their home to sin, and then they lost their only two children, one to death and the other to disobedience, and they were powerless to fix any of it.

Very simply, none of us can restore to ourselves what sin takes from us. In marriage, these losses threaten our union. As the devil seeks only to steal, kill, and destroy, we are prone to turn on each other and to demand a recompense that is impossible for anyone to pay.

That was not how Adam and Eve responded. Without the benefit of the Bible, a local church, or a certified therapist, they found grace. No doubt they grieved, but by grace, grief does not have to turn into despair. Instead, grace gives more than sin takes. Adam and Eve were intimate again and Eve gave birth to Seth. In Hebrew, Seth’s name sounds very similar to the word for “appointed.” Adam and Eve knew Seth was a sovereign act of generosity toward them.

When we are engulfed by irreparable loss, God’s grace secures us and binds us together. We may lose and lose greatly, but grace means God never loses us.

Feelings of love come and go throughout the seasons of marriage. Circumstances challenge our resolve and loyalty, but God’s amazing grace sustains us in marriage as a Gospel witness and beautiful picture of His enduring love for us.

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