Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lifting Grace

Now the young lady pleased him
and found favor with him.
Esther 2:9

Esther exhibited a grace-filled charm and elegance. In this verse, the literal translation of the original language says, "She lifted up grace before his face." Isn't that a beautiful expression? Though she was brought to the harem and participated in these things reluctantly, Esther did not display a sour attitude. I'm convinced she sensed God's hand in her situation. Why else would she have been there? ~ Swindoll

I would have to say that one of the most important lessons that God is teaching me in and through my marriage is how to give grace. Isn't it a funny thing how we seem to be able to easily offer grace to the stranger on the street, to the hurting on the mission field, to the friend that's lost as a goose, but we will find ourselves unwilling to give grace to our own spouse.

We place this expectation of perfection on them and this unspoken demand that they should be able to read our minds and know exactly what we need and want, when we need and want it, the way we need and want it. We expect them never to be angry or frustrated or make a mistake and they simply must just understand us perfectly.

My husband and I have finally learned in our 13 years of marriage that we filter things differently. We see things differently. We understand things differently. We interpret things differently. It took us a while to realize that we have a breakdown in communication between the female and male way of thinking and doing.

One of the most powerful illustrations of the realization I have for this breakdown happened not long ago.
You see I am not "Betty Crocker" at all. I can cook, but I do not love to cook. If I am given the slightest out on cooking I am taking it.

"Oh, your mother wants us to come out for dinner tonight, well great!" (I truly love my mother-in-laws cooking!)
"You're still full from a late lunch? Okay, the girls and I will have a bowl of cereal."
"You want to go eat where? That's sounds like a plan to me."

Like I said I can cook and usually my food is pretty tasty, but I am a klutz in the kitchen. I literally have kitchen wars battle scars all over my arms and hands from the past 13 years of cooking for my husband.
I always manage to make a mess.  I will spill something, boil something over, knock something over, freakish things will happen to me in the kitchen when I am just tying to do the simplest thing.

Once I was in the middle of making out of the box mac & cheese and I go to shake down the pack of powdered cheese and in mid shake the package opens itself and me and my kitchen are now covered in powdered cheese. I found scattered powdered cheese for weeks.

Now on the opposite end my husband loves to cook and he is a wonderful cook. I mean he is in the "he could do this for a living if he wanted to" category of good. And while I am here in my kitchen klutz mode with battle scars and powdered cheese I felt that I could never meet his standard of cooking and that he was comparing me to all those women on the Food Network who are talking about feeding their men, oh you know, the Barefoot Contessa and her Jeffrey and Paula Dean and her Michael.
I mean I could never be them.

So this is where my cooking frustration is rooted.

Now back to the realization illustration... On one particular day I am cooking dinner and the usual freakish things and injuries are taking place as I attempt to prepare this meal. My husband is in the kitchen and I mouth off my usual "This is why I hate cooking!"  

As I mouthed how I hated cooking, what my husband heard was "I hate taking care of you!"


Of course, me, knowing what I knew about myself, when he let me know this was what he heard, I grew indignant at his response. I thought how in the world can you even think such a thing! That's ridiculous!

Major miscommunication.

Because in truth what I wanted was my husband to see how much I sacrifice in order to take care of him by the fact that I am willing to suffer the battle scars and the messes made by my kitchen klutzdom. But the words coming out of my mouth counter-acted my actions.

I displayed a sour attitude and I did not lift up grace to my husband. I was playing the martyr. I think that possibly I was even trying to manipulate him through guilt into saying something encouraging to me as I struggled there before the stove. I was sending signals and expecting to hear words of his great appreciation as he acknowledged my willing sacrifice to do this cooking thing I hated so much just because I loved him.
I certainly was not expecting that he would interpret my words as hating to take care of him and our family.

Major backfire.

So here is where grace comes in. My husband knows me very well. Most likely better than any other mortal on the earth besides my parents, but he cannot read my mind. I know my husband very well. Most likely more than any other mortal on the earth besides his parents, but I cannot read his mind.

Neither of us are perfect.
Neither of us can assume everything about the other.
Both of us are growing and changing as we grow in the knowledge of the Lord and in His wisdom.
Both of us have flesh that grows weary and frustrated and sick.
Both of us have needs and wants and particular ways we prefer to have things done.
We understand each other perty well, but not yet perfectly, but we are pressing on for maturity.

As we press on we must lift up grace. If we are to receive grace we must first be willing to give grace. The only way we are able to receive the grace of God is because God was first willing to give it to us. Grace is a gift. Ladies, if we have received grace from God we can give it to our husbands. Let us lavish grace and mercy on them the way that God has lavished His on us.

In Him we have redemption through His blood,
the forgiveness of our trespasses,
according to the riches of His grace 
which He lavished on us.
In all wisdom and insight 
He made known to us the mystery of His will,
according to His kind intention
which He purposed in Him.
Ephesians 1:7-9

Notice that in the grace that was lavished on us God made known the mystery of His will. He does not expect us to read His mind or figure Him out by sending "signals". In His offered grace He flat out makes known what He wants from us, what He needs from us, and the way He prefers it to be done and also notice it was according to His kind intention, not finger-shaking, head-bobbing, foot-stomping, harsh demand.

So your challenges:

1) Lift up grace before his face. Think of at least one thing that you have been "giving signals" over and then have pouted over because he didn't get the signal. Offer him grace. Don't assume he is ignoring the "signal". Go to him and make known the mystery of your will and do it with kindness not in an accusatory or belittling tone.  

2) Look for God's hand in a situation that you are not particularly happy to be in. Think of at least one thing that you do for your husband with "a sour attitude" and turn that sour attitude into sweet submission trusting that God's hand is at work in him and in you and in your marriage.

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