I took an Anatomy class in college.
First of all, with the help of my lab partner, I had to skin a cat. Ewww!
Then I had to familiarize myself so thoroughly with every in and out (organs, bones, muscles, nerves) of that sad cat that I had formaldehyde-filled dreams at night! But what that experience taught me is that every part of a living creature is intricately interrelated and intertwined. That’s what I found as I did an autopsy on a dead feline …
What would I find?
If I did, I could trace the lines of bitterness back to a single word or incident that set the stage for an intricate cascade of interactions and reactions.
For example …
What if my husband said something I perceived to be hurtful. Whether he meant for it to be hurtful or not, is not the issue nor is it important.
Here’s how it might go –
- I could think a sarcastic or negative thought in my head as something of an internal retaliation that would cause the anger to flow into deeper and darker places.
- I could be bold and snap back at him, rationalizing to myself that speaking harshly to my spouse is helpful for my marriage in that moment.
- I could store it in my memory bank along with all the other volumes of “How My Husband’s Done Me Wrong” and pull it out for whenever I wanted a “good read.”
Any of those choices would move the angry thought on to a resentful rumination within my heart and mind.
Then the next day when he did something I “perceived” to be against me, I could reach back to that resentful feeling and stroke it, study it, polish it. At that point, the once angry thought would progress into contempt. The emotional kick that I’d feel would be stronger, more powerful, more connected in my heart and mind—convincing me that my husband was becoming a bigger villain.
Day would go into day, and if I did not intervene on the interconnected and intertwining nature of this hateful disposition, my heart would become immersed in bitterness. Sure, my spouse might’ve done hurtful things to me on a daily basis. Sure, it might’ve been normal for me to feel hurt and/or anger.
But the thing is … you and I can stop the flow of that one angry thought at any point—radically halting the progression of anger.
Christ gives us that power to intervene—to turn anger, resentment, contempt and bitterness into forgiveness, mercy and love.
So the next time you notice that little twinge of hurt or anger flashing across your heart, ask Christ to intervene. Ask Him to give you the strength and will to forgive your spouse.
If this seems impossible, meditate on the forgiveness you’ve received from Christ. If you truly understand the gravity of that sacrifice, then I know you’ll be quick to extend that same forgiveness to your spouse.
“Make sure that no one misses out on God’s grace. Make sure that no root of bitterness grows up that might cause trouble and pollute many people.” Hebrews 12:15 (CEB)
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.“ Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV)
photo credit by qthomasbower (Flickr)