**Yes, I have gotten behind in this series and I apologize. I am kicking myself for not keeping up with it as diligently as I should. Please forgive me and continue reading!**
You are a sinner. You married a sinner. And now you are endeavoring to create a biblical marriage, a biblical family, between two sinful people in a sinful world. Impossible? It can sure seem like it. Hard? Yes.
This chapter of Real Marriage was a challenging one. When we hear the phrase “taking out the trash” we typically think of the “trash” being someone else, someone who isn’t good for us and needs to go. But in this chapter, “taking out the trash” refers to our own trash, our own crap that needs to go. One thing that will ruin a marriage is holding onto our trash, thinking it’s not hurting anybody, and refusing to do anything about it. It will ruin a marriage to sin against your spouse, or your spouse to sin against you, and not reconcile.
Conflict comes in every marriage. It is unavoidable. But when conflict comes, repentance and forgiveness should follow.
The Driscolls list what repentance is not in order to clarify what repentance is.
- Repentance is not getting caught but coming clean.
- Repentance is not denying our sin.
- Repentance is not diminishing our sin.
- Repentance is not managing your sin.
- Repentance is not blame-shifting our sin.
- Repentance is not excusing our sin.
- Repentance is not about someone else’s sin.
- Repentance is not about manipulating God or people for blessing.
- Repentance is not worldly sorrow.
- Repentance is not solely grieving the consequences of your sin but is hating the evil of sin itself.
- Repentance is not mere confession.
The following three things make up repentance:
We take out the trash we bring into your marriages by repenting of how we have sinned against our spouse. We should take this seriously. Denying or ignoring our sin only makes things worse. Putting blame on our spouse as the cause of our sin is childish. Being sorry but not truly hating what we’ve done isn’t real repentance. To repent, we must confess both to God and our spouse, be contrite, seeing our sin as God does, and then we must make a change.
In marriage, repentance has to be continual because we are continually messing up. We can’t keep our love and covenant strong if we stop repenting.
On the other side of repentance is forgiveness. The Driscolls also list what forgiveness is not. I think it is especially important to know what forgiveness is not because it can be a hard concept.
- Forgiveness is not denying, approving, or diminishing sin that is committed against us.
- Forgiveness is not naivety.
- Forgiveness is not enabling sin.
- Forgiveness is not waiting for someone to acknowledge sin, apologize, or repent.
- Forgiveness is not forgetting about sin committed against us.
- Forgiveness is not dying emotionally and no longer feeling the pain of the transgression.
- Forgiveness is not a one-time event.
- Forgiveness is not reconciliation.
- Forgiveness is not neglecting justice.
Forgiveness isn’t so much about your relationship with the transgressor as it is about your relationship with the Lord. Forgiveness is about your heart, not theirs. We are commanded to forgive others as we have been forgiven by God so ultimately forgiveness should be done as an act of worship. When we forgive, we keep bitterness out. Bitterness is a bondage and it can destroy not only our marriages, but ourselves.
We need to repent, forgive, and keep bitterness out of our marriages. To do that, we need to learn to fight well. When in conflict, we need to learn to keep the perspective that our spouse is our friend, not our enemy. The Driscolls offer six “rules” to fighting productively.
- You have to decide if your spouse has committed a sin.
- Decide how you want to deal with the conflict.
- Do not fight when either of you has any substances in you, such as alcohol, that alter your emotional state. (I would also add being aware of other issues, such as sleep deprivation, that could also alter your emotional state).
- Before you fight, stop to pray, asking God to be in the midst of your fight, controlling your tongue, and helping you fight for the marriage by attacking the problem and not the person.
- Do not use fighting with your spouse as your release valve or lightening rod. (In other words, if you need to relieve stress, don’t do it by arguing with your spouse. Choose another activity that helps you relieve pressure.)
- Sometimes a couple simply cannot come to an agreement on an important issue, and it affects their oneness and unity, possibly including their sexuality. In such circumstances humble servants need to ask whether or not the issue is really worth holding their ground on, or if in love with a clear conscience they can defer to their spouses.
To sum it all up, don’t sacrifice your marriage for the sake of your trash. Your marriage is worth a whole lot more.