Mark loves his coffee. I love Mark, but I’m not particularly fond of his coffee. It seems I find coffee rings and coffee splotches everywhere. In the car. On the floor. On the table beside his chair (he takes the concept of “coffee table” to a whole new level!). After years of dealing with his coffee messes, I’ve decided to use my powerful God-tool of grace.
Grace is a free gift from God. Because of Jesus, we deserve punishment but we get mercy instead. It’s an upside down response to what we deserve. God gives us grace because of who He is. We don’t earn it. We don’t even deserve it.
Several years ago, Mark and I started using the phrase “grace space” to describe the much needed tool of grace in marriage. Grace space happens when we allow another person to be human, to make mistakes, be imperfect, and to have their own idiosyncrasies. When we give grace, it is an internal decision to forgive and a choice to let something go without addressing it.
Grace is a first cousin to forgiveness. It requires forgiveness. However, grace is the tool we need in order to forgive and really let something go. We use this tool when dealing with the harmless habits that bug us but don’t really hurt us. Like coffee. Or leaving lights on. Or leaving the toilet seat up. Or when our spouse does things differently than we would.
We also use our God-tool of grace when dealing with our spouse’s human limitations. Jill has to pull out the God-tool of grace when dealing with me being hard of hearing and missing things that are said (I often forget to put my hearing aids in after work), having ADHD (I have too much going on in my mind and have difficulty focusing), and having a smaller emotional capacity (I wear out before she does). Do I do these things on purpose? Nope! I do them because I am human.
I have to pull out my God-tool of grace when I say something to Jill and her internal-processing brain is thinking about something else so she doesn’t hear me. I have to use grace when she misplaces something (Jill only buys sunglasses and reading glasses at the dollar store because she loses them all the time!). I use my God-tool of grace when Jill forgets to pack something on a trip. Does she do these things on purpose? Nope! She does them because she’s human. Grace needs to be the tool we choose to use to handle our spouse’s human nature.
When thinking through whether something needs forgiveness or grace, ask yourself these two questions:
1) Does this hurt me or just irritate me?
2) Does this need to be corrected or simply accepted as part of being married to an imperfect person?
Grace is a beautiful gift to give to our spouse, especially if he/she is aware of places where he/she falls short or has bad habits. Grace replaces criticism. Even if he/she isn’t aware of their shortcomings, you can use your tool of grace. It’s also a beautiful gift to give yourself because it gives you another option for responding to your spouse’s imperfections.
Next time you’re tempted to criticize, stop and pull grace out of your marriage toolbox. Ask yourself if this is an offense or an irritation. If it’s an offense, offer forgiveness before you address it, and if you’re simply bumping into your spouse’s human limitations, offer grace.
And if you have a coffee drinker who leaves a trail wherever he/she goes, you might want to give the gift of grace right along with the gift of a sippy cup!
‘For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. ‘ James 2:13
What about you? Can you think of places where you need to extend forgiveness? Places where you need to give grace? How can you talk with your spouse about your areas of irritation and hurt?