There have been two MAJOR times in our marriage when honesty – the painful kind of honesty you know is going to hurt your spouse – is necessary. The first happened during our third year of marriage when I was pregnant with our first baby. We were out to dinner (which deciding where to eat became a major conflict all in itself), looking over the menu across from each other in a dimly lit room. Suddenly, I had a question I knew I needed to ask Tom. It was one of those probing questions into the heart. When I asked, Tom’s countenance immediately changed. He looked like he had been caught stealing, which being dishonest about something or hiding something from your spouse is a lot like stealing. He began to confess to me several things I would have never suspected or imagined.
This was the moment God used to give us an open door to deeper intimacy.
Although, after hearing all he had to say – intimacy was the LAST thing on my mind. I was hurt. I was angry. And I was shocked. How could I not have known?
Once everything was out in the open, our talks became more serious, sober. No longer were we seeing life through rose-colored glasses. Those had been smashed, but with it came a deeper focus on the beauty of grace. Unmerited grace. Grace that is capable of forgiving and helping us move forward.
This was the beginning of our hearts being knit together with a love that comes from God. It is holy – unnatural. He who has forgiven us much enabled me to forgive Tom much. As the years passed we realized how pivotal this night was in solidifying our relationship. Our love was stronger and deeper because God helped us be brutally honest.
Fast-forward to our 18th year of marriage when it was my turn to feel the heat. I had been reading Andrew Murray’s book on Humility, and as I came to the end I felt prompted by the Lord to take his 30 day challenge. It is called A Prayer For Humility and reads like this:
Here I will give you an infallible touchstone that will tie all to the truth. It is this; retire from the world and all conversation, only for one month. Neither write, not read, nor debate anything with yourself. Stop all the former workings of your heart and mind. And, with all the strength of your heart, stand all this month, as continually as you can, in the following form of prayer to God. Offer it frequently on your knees. But whether sitting, walking, or standing, be always inwardly longing and earnestly praying this one prayer to God:
“That of His great goodness He would make known to you, and take from your heart, every kind and form and degree of pride, whether it be from evil spirits, or your own corrupt nature; and that He would awaken in you the deepest depth and truth of that humility which can make you capable of His light and Holy Spirit.”
Reject every thought, but that of waiting and praying in this matter from the bottom of your heart, with such truth and earnestness as people in torment wish to pray and be delivered from it. If you can and will give yourself up in truth and sincerity to this spirit of prayer, I will venture to affirm that, if you had twice as many evil spirits in you as Mary Magdalene had, they will all be cast out of you, and you will be forced with her to weep tears of love at the feet of the holy Jesus.
I knew I was proud. It was something I recognized and prayed to God often to help me change. But I didn’t know the depth or the seriousness of my sin.
For two weeks I prayed the prayer above, earnestly seeking God to show me how He saw me. For those two weeks I didn’t sense anything differently to speak of. I remember actually thinking to myself, maybe I’m not so proud after all. Until one Sunday, God in His kindness opened the floodgates of conviction. It started with me simply asking Tom to do something during our Sunday service. He was in the middle of praying for someone and I interrupted him to tell him what I was thinking. Afterward as we were driving home he mentioned to me the awkwardness of my interrupting him. I would like to say I listened to him and apologized. But I didn’t. I got angry; steaming angry.
Tom got out to pump gas in our car, but the fumes inside our car were more noxious. As I was mulling over what he said – the Lord quickened to my heart this thought:
This is pride. I want you to repent to Tom for the way you’re acting. I am answering your prayer.
Those words were few, but sharper than a two-edged sword. My conscience was pierced and the tears began to flow. By the time Tom got in the car he had no clue as to what was wrong. I couldn’t talk. I was convicted in a way I’ve never felt conviction before. This was an experience my pride had never allowed.
For the next few weeks everywhere I looked in my life I saw pride. It was there behind every motive, every phone conversation, every thought and every deed. God literally opened the flood gates and had it not been for the depth of His grace and His loving hand to stop when I could bear no more, I wouldn’t have endured.
Following this experience, I realized something. Tom now knew the ugly side of my heart. The part I had worked so hard to hide from others. The funny thing is as I repented to others, my pride wasn’t a surprise to them at all. They saw it, but loved me anyway. Wow!
I realize this post is longer than usual, and if you’ve managed to read this far, maybe God is wanting you to pursue an honesty which breeds intimacy with God – with your spouse? But be forewarned; it can be ugly at first. God has promised He will never leave you or forsake you. He will walk this road with you and help you say NO to ungodliness in whatever form this has taken in your heart and marriage. The purpose is to have a marriage built upon the solid rock of Christ. All other foundations must crumble in order to build a loving relationship which will endure any storm. It is all for Him and His glory that we do these things.
I promise, if you ask God to show you how to do this, He will be faithful to show you.