There once was a man who had two sons. The younger son said to his father “give me my inheritance now.” So the father gave him his inheritance early and he took off with the money to a distant land. He soon squandered all of his money and found himself destitute and desperate. He thought to himself “even my father’s hired men have food to eat and here I am starving. I will go to my father and tell him I am no longer worthy to be his son and beg him to be one of his hired men.” When he was still far away his father saw him and ran to him, embraced him, and welcomed him home. The father was overjoyed his son had returned and threw a royal party in his honor.
Jesus told this parable of a lost son (It’s recorded in the Bible in the book of Luke chapter 15). I love how his story illustrates a relationship injured then mended.
Grace offered, grace accepted. Party. It’s the winning method for mending and strengthening relationships.
Your relationship with God and your spouse are the two most important relationships in your life. Mending these relationships will benefit all other relationships.
[I’m co-authoring this post with my sister Joy Lindner. She is an ordained minister and the pastor at the Juliaetta Idaho Church of the Nazarene.]
Mending your relationship with God.
God has made us for relationship with him and desires an intimate connection with us as his dearly loved children. But our relationship with God is broken by sin, by the selfish choices we make, by our pride that says we can do just fine without God.
- We mess up. Our first step is to admit our sin and acknowledge how our choices have broken the relationship. Yet, by ourselves, we are not capable of healing this relationship.
- Grace offered. The Good News is God extends his grace and reaches out to us to heal the relationship. Long before we turn to God, God, out of his great love for the world, sent his son Jesus as the ultimate expression of that love. God offers us the free gift of his grace, wooing us to a life of reconciled relationship and deep connection. All we do is simply accept his gift of grace through faith in Jesus.
- Grace accepted. God’s gift of grace completely mends our relationship, and in response to this amazing love of God, we seek to live in ways that express our love in return. As recipients of grace and forgiveness, our lives reflect a change of direction, turning away from sin and toward God. God invites us to live in ways that increase connection and fosters closeness.
- Party. Connecting well with our Creator leads to life, life abundantly. Deep connection with God produces the fruit of his Spirit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Connecting well with our Creator thus produces in us characteristics that foster deep connections in human relationships.
Mending your relationship with your spouse
The major difference between your relationship with God and your marriage is your relationship with your spouse contains two imperfect people. In human relationships, grace must be extended and accepted in both directions.
Our marriage relationship gets damaged in many ways, we are imperfect and we mess up. It could be through conflict, neglect, selfishness, eating all the chocolate, or simply not getting the toilet seat right. Marriage can sustain relational injuries from serious or petty conflicts.
- We mess up. Relationship mistakes will happen in marriage. Conflict gets messy and we damage our connection. When you mess up admit to your spouse how you were responsible for damaging the relationship. The critical aspect of apology is acknowledging the damage caused to your connection.
- Grace offered. When your spouse messes up extend grace. Communicate this grace gently in a way they can experience.
- Grace accepted. Recognize when grace is extended to you and accept the gift. Don’t remain in the pit of self imposed despair. In response to receiving grace, commit to reduce future damage and protect connection through a healthy pattern of interaction. Taking responsibility to change how you interact resulting in fewer mess ups will rebuild trust.
- Party. The best part of mending your relationship with your spouse is the celebration. Enjoy wonderful intimacy in your marriage. Celebrate your great connection. It can feel like bragging or showing off to celebrate a great marriage when so many are suffering, but go ahead and show others the wonderful benefits of committed connection. Your celebration can change the impression that struggle and divorce are a more common experience in marriage than happiness.
The older son in Jesus’ story grumbled about the extravagant grace the father extended to his younger brother. If you choose to ignore God’s offer of grace you will risk missing the party. If you choose to remain critical and hurtful to your spouse you will miss the party.
Will you accept the grace offered you? Get ready to party.
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