Marriage Growth

We must take Christ with us to tidy the house.

Ellen Bresee (1928-1997) was co-founder of Shepherdess International.

 Editor's note: Here we share with you Ellen's last article,

 A new marriage is like a lovely, new house. Fresh paint, neat lawns, flowers blooming. Inside it is lovingly decorated. Laughter and love abound, a cheery fire burns in the heart and warms us.

Then, ever so gradually, the spirit of bitterness and unforgiveness seeps in—the weather of time starts chipping away at the exterior paint. The damage of neglect sets in. The windows jam, the doors sag, the rooms begin to settle under the mantle of dust and darkness.

Perhaps a spouse has been unfaithful, an in-law brings pain, promises were made and not kept, sharp words have left a crack in the foundation. Our expectations or demands were more than the spouse was capable of delivering. We begin to board up the windows and eventually the house stands empty and locked. The spiritual dwelling place of God is shut up.

"We cannot live in a broken, barricaded house."

So often when I used to do marriage counseling I would find people harboring things in their hearts that were destroying their marriage relationship. We cannot live in a broken, barricaded house. We have been dwelling on the unpleasant past, or worst yet, told ourselves we have buried it, and will not allow ourselves to acknow­ledge it exists. Still, the haunting ghost of remembrance whispers painful memories in our ears.

"To have happy homes we need to confess our sin and ask for forgiveness."

Karen Maines in her book, Key to a Loving Heart suggests that when this happens we have alienated ourselves from Christ, the only one who knows and understands the territory of the subconscious. But we do not want to answer His knock at the door. We know forgiveness is costly. It is an agony of submission. Each time we forgive, we are participating slightly in the all-inclusive suffering of Christ. It must be offered even when it has not been requested. When Peter asked, "Lord, how often shall my brother (spouse) sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Christ replied, "Seventy times seven!" Christ taught we must forgive again and again.

To have happy homes, we need to confess our sin and ask for forgiveness. We must repaint and clean the old house, unboard the windows and release our souls from the bonds of a darkened and unforgiving home. We must take Christ with us to tidy the house. Let Him Look under the sofa, open every small closet, every cupboard to His view. Tell Him, "Here is the dirt, here is what I have been harboring." He will sweep every corner clean and forgive us even as we are forgiving our spouse. " I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you" (Isa. 44:22, NIV).*