Recently the pastor at the church I attend was speaking about God’s grace, and how everything flows out of it. It’s true: the more we experience God’s ridiculous, bottomless, unfathomable, inexplicable, unbelievable grace for us, the more it overflows from our lives to others. It got me thinking about marriage and the (lack of) grace I have for my spouse. So often in marriage it’s easy to start believing the two words that destroy a marriage: “I deserve.”
It’s a mentality where what I do for my wife is directly proportional to what I feel I’ve earned. If I’m tired, or have been with the kids a lot, or had a hard day at work, or am in a grumpy mood that I find a way to justify, then I feel like I deserve the extra rest, or to be emotionally withdrawn, or to get snippy and not apologize. I get angry when my wife doesn’t recognize all the sacrifices I’m making, or how hard something is for me, etc. etc. It’s all really ugly: I deserve!
I’ve met many couples who are caught in the “I Deserve” trap. For weeks/months/years/decades there’s been a slow boil of resentment toward their partner. It shows up in sarcastic comments made in public, passive-aggressive silent treatment, emotional or sexual withholding, pouring all the time and attention into the kids so you don’t have to talk with your spouse, or having the same argument repeating over and over where neither side will back down from wanting to be understood … any of those sound familiar?
So how do we break out of the “I Deserve” trap? We do it by bringing ourselves before God and saying “would your grace for me be so overwhelming that it will spill over to my spouse?” I was recently talking to a friend who told me she had been asking God to help her see her boyfriend through His eyes for months. This girl is a pretty terrified commitment-phobe trying to work through her past, but as she’s prayed this prayer she’s found herself less paralyzed by fear and more free to give unconditional love to her boyfriend.
What would happen if we did the same for our spouse? What if we asked God to free us from the “I Deserve” trap by increasing our awareness of us life-altering grace for us and our husband/wife? What if you committed to doing this for 14 days – every single day you prayed that God would help you to see your spouse the way he does. What if you and your spouse prayed this together? What might happen?