This summer we will have been married 20 years. That feels a pretty significant milestone and one which has given me cause to reflect on all that makes our marriage such a happy one. I am convinced that grace is key to our joy filled marriage and helps us to see the best in one another.
Let me share with you a couple of examples from our marriage of when grace has been shown to one another, instead of grumbling and complaining.
I am not in any way shape or form an early bird. Mornings for me start reluctantly, and are best started late, or at the very least, slowly. Conversations with me before 8am are likely to be short, incoherent and not always filled with grace! Phil on the other hand is great in a morning, jolly and fully functional upon waking. I always admire his ability to move, when my body feels immobilised by the call of sleep and a warm snuggly duvet. Now the grace part, in this scenario, comes entirely from Phil. He knows the challenges I have with early starts and he graciously leaves me to slumber, often giving the other early risers some breakfast, to buy me a few more minutes rest. Every day I am grateful for this gift.
For over a decade, in the early days of parenting, I woke early with little ones, who seemed to believe that sleep was for the weak, whilst Phil left early to commute up to London. Those were often challenging days, and there were not a few tears shed on days when I just felt so tired due to waking at 5 am with a newborn, only to get them back to sleep just before the toddler woke for the day.
Thankfully Phil has been working from home for about 7 years and is invariably the first one up each day. He is so gracious though, because he never complains, he just happily accepts that I am a happier wife if I wake up later. If he were to hassle me to get up, I would reluctantly move, but he loves me too much to ask that of me, unless there is a particular reason.
In turn I offer Phil grace in the evenings. By six o’clock Phil’s patience is dwindling and I know he will need a break, especially as the noise level in our house crescendos somewhere around teatime. Rather than asking him to push on through, I try and take some of the pressure off, by taking on the bulk of the bedtime routine.
I’m no saint though, and I don’t always feel gracious because irritation and impatience are part of our humanity, but by looking to God instead of at the situation, he pours his love and grace into me and enables me to be kind instead of sharp.
Grace is an everyday feature in our busy lives and gives us the ability to see the situation from a different angle. For example, each day I stack the dishwasher and then Phil comes in and looks at my deeply flawed stacked dishwasher, he often graciously walks away, closing his eyes to my absolute failings in terms of fitting in the maximum number of items in the most appropriate places! Sometimes he just can’t resist restacking it though. I watch as the dishwasher, which I stacked in a hurry, but to the best of my ability, with Katie trying to get in the dishwasher and sit on the dishwasher door, is unloaded and then reloaded with meticulous precision. My pride at that point can feel wounded, because I tried and he is undoing all my work, or I can show grace and thank Phil for helping me to clean up the kitchen. My prideful response would begin to build a wall between us but my gracious response would build a bridge.
Grace starts with prayer. First we accept our need of grace from God. It is his grace, his free gift of eternal life, for us who are lost, broken and undeserving, which enables us to be gracious to those around us.
What do you think makes a happy marriage? I’d love to hear your responses in the comments.