We were recently at a restaurant to meet another couple and got there a few minutes early to get a table so we wouldn’t have to wait once they arrived. We spotted the perfect table where we could talk. When we got closer we realized the table hadn’t been cleared yet. It was quite obvious the previous diners enjoyed their meal–immensely. They left a mess to prove it!
Tom and I sat in the booth waiting for the server to come clear the table. It took awhile. As we waited we didn’t dare touch the table, and for whatever reason it was difficult to talk as well. So we just sat in silence looking at our phones to pass the time.
Our friends eventually showed up. The server had come and cleared away the mess with one trip–which was quite amazing. She said it came with lots of practice.
You never know when a great analogy is going to come along, and I didn’t see this one coming until the next morning. I awoke with a made-up word on my mind–ForgiveMess.
We all know what it means to make a mess of things in our relationship. Things can be going fine and we say something without thinking and suddenly we have a mess to deal with. We don’t usually ask for it–it just happens.
Can you imagine if Tom and I had tried to go ahead and have dinner on that messy table? It would have made our nice evening not so nice. We would have had to do some re-arranging of dirty dishes just to make room for what we had ordered, and then we’d have to avoid getting dirty ourselves. It’s disgusting to think of it.
Yet many marriages live like this; Rather than deal with the messes as they come–clearing away the offenses–we simply push them aside not wanting to do the work necessary to get rid of the mess completely. This might be due to denial (what dirty dishes?), blame-shifting (I didn’t make the mess, you did!), or punishment (if you’re gonna make a mess than I’ll make a mess to show you!)
The truth is we all do this to some degree. It’s in our human nature and unless we intentionally go after this tendency we’ll spend our entire marriage with a mess.
What’s the answer to stop the mess? It goes back to my made-up word–forgivemess. When your spouse makes a mess of a conversation and says something in the heat of the moment, give them grace. Think the best. Pray for them. Forgive them. This is a way we can keep little offenses from becoming huge conflicts.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV
We may not be able to keep the messes from happening, but when they do we can choose to forgive the mess–forgivemess. After all, this is what Christ has done for us–shouldn’t we model this kind of love towards our spouse?