Forgiveness: Oil for the Engine Of Your Marriage

Forgiveness is the oil that lubricates and keeps the mechanisms of mar­riage running smoothly. Unforgiveness, on the other hand, often resembles a self-erected wall intended to protect us from further hurt.  The problem is this: the same wall that is erected for protection also shuts off the flow of love coming our way from others. It’s a no-win situation.

 If we hope to have a healthy, God-honoring marriage, we must decide in advance each day to be a forgiver.  In the same way we must decide to change the oil in our car from time to time, we must decide to grant and receive forgiveness.  If we don’t make that decision over and over, the “engine” of our marriage will eventually implode and grind to a halt in a cloud of smoke.


 I.       Some Basics–Here are some basics concepts (which align with Scripture) that should guide our understanding of forgiveness:         

  • Acid of Unforgiveness–Unforgiveness is like ingesting an acid that can destroy a vessel from the inside out. It simply eats away at the fabric of our ability to have healthy relationships.  We react to others with self-defensiveness, anger, and bitterness.  We build self-protective walls that may give us a sense of safety, but the same walls designed for protection also keep out the genuine love that others may want to transmit our way. That love is the very thing we probably need to get through our valley of unforgiveness.
  • Inside and Outside the Marriage–We need to hold ourselves to the requirement of total forgiveness, not only toward our mate but toward anyone else in our life. Unforgiveness produces anger, and anger toward a person outside the marriage will eventually spill over onto our marital partner.
  • Satan’s Deception Plan–God has called us to forgive­ness for our own good — knowing that our refusal to do so eventually renders us impotent and ineffective in our Christian walk. Satan, the great deceiver, attempts to confuse the importance of forgiveness by offering us several other alterna­tives — from self-justifica­tion to self-pity.  None of them can substitute for the life and freedom that flows through pure forgiveness.
  • Starting with the Vertical–Resolving conflicts in interpersonal relationships starts with resolv­ing the conflict in our relationship with God—our self-focused, sin nature. This starts with receiving the forgiveness God has made available to us.  

So, what exactly is forgiveness?  Forgiveness is:

  • A gift to both the forgiver and the forgiven
  • A tool that allows us to relate well to others
  • A weaponof warfare because it neutralizes
    One of Satan’s favorite tactics  (2 Cor. 2:11)

II.       A quick review of Scripture leads us to several clear conclusions:

  1. If we want to be forgiven by God, we must forgive others (Mt. 6:14; Mk.11:25).
  2. We are to forgive others “just as in Christ God forgave” us. (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13).
  3. Confession and repentance is a prerequisite to granting and receiving forgiveness (I Jn. 1:9; Lk.17:4) (However, if another person refuses to confess and repent for their misdeeds against us, we must still stand against the tendency to harbor bitterness and resentment).
  4. By refusing to forgive others, we fall into the trap of grieving the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30-32).
  5. When our marriage partner has sinned against us—and vice versa–we are commanded by Jesus to confront, to forgive, and to keep on forgiving:

“So watch yourselves.  If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” (Lk. 17:3).

Here is more on those three requirements of Luke 17:3:

Honest Confrontation
When we find ourselves hurt, offended, or sinned against, most of us either “nurse and rehearse” the offense, or we strike back with a defensive counter-punch of our own.  One of the most challenging things for Christians to do is to respond correctly by honestly “speaking the truth in love” (Eph.4:15), to confront, and to “rebuke” as the Scripture commands. The word for “rebuke” in Greek means to “speak frankly, honestly, and politely” as you tell a person how you feel that he or she has wronged you. Although most of us find direct confrontation very difficult to practice on a consistent basis, it sure beats the alternative: holding onto offenses year after year, fueled by a demonically-empowered diet of bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness.  If you have not yet started practicing Scriptural confrontation, there is no time like the present.  You may need to seek some outside help to learn this important way of life.

The word “forgive” in Greek means to “set free, to let go, to release, to discharge or liberate completely.” It includes the idea of pardoning someone from their offense or canceling a debt without it being fully paid.  Someone has also written that it means to surrender your perceived right to extract restitution or punishment. 

For those of us who like to see some level of justice in this business of forgiveness, it is very freeing to find in Scripture that repentance and confession seem to be prerequisites to our obligation to forgive.  This does not mean, of course, that we are allowed to harbor bitterness and judgmental attitudes toward those who have not yet sought our forgiveness.  Someone has written accurately that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for someone else to die.

Letting It Go 
The “letting go” aspect of forgiveness is probably the hardest for most people.  In short, it means that once a person has confessed a wrong and sought our forgiveness, we must release them in a way similar to how God releases us (Ps. 103:12). We cannot succumb to the temptation to extract restitution, wish for their “deserved suffering,” hope they “get what they have coming,” etc. We must also give up the tendency to continually dredge up the wrong over and over until our pain is gone.  In fact, we are exhorted by Scripture to decide to forgive and keep on forgiving (70 times 7).

III.     What Forgiveness is Not—Another helpful way to study forgiveness is to focus on what forgiveness is NOT:

  • It is not denying the gravity of the offense or deeming someone not guilty. [For instance, a criminal who steals should be for­given by his victim, while still being held ac­countable for his actions.  The thief on the cross received the justice set down by law while also receiving total forgiveness from Jesus.  (Luke 23:40-43)];
  • It is not justification or making excuses for unacceptable conduct;
  • It is not refusing to confront something in the name of peace and “spirituality”;
  • It is not extending unsanctified mercy to the other person by not requiring confession and repentance;
  • It is not allowing the conduct to continue because the offender has previously sought forgiveness;
  • It is not side-stepping the need to grieve lost happiness and lost dreams;
  • It is not a substitute for discipline.  (In the instance of a teenager who has shown himself to be irresponsi­ble with the use of a car, we should freely forgive while withholding the key to the car.) In 2 Samuel 12:13-14, we see that David sinned and was disciplined by God.  This did not alter the fact that he was totally forgiven.
  • It is not to be confused with wisdom (A woman who is being abused by her husband is called by Scripture to an attitude of forgiveness but may clearly need to remove herself from the threat of physical harm).

IV. The Other Side of the Coin
The Biblical business of forgiveness is a two-sided coin.  One side is the “act of the will” forgiveness that we are commanded to practice as Christians, as outlined above.  The other side of the coin is the “healing side”–dealing with the wounding and consequences that flow from the conduct being forgiven.  In short, wherever there is a need for forgiveness, there is very likely a need for healing as well.  This means that when we are the offender, even after we have confessed our offense and sought forgiveness, we must stay engaged with our marriage partner through the healing process—the pathway of restoration through prayer.  May the Lord grant to every person reading this piece a fresh calling and resolve to live a life of forgiveness in their marriage.

V. Keeping the Ground You Regain
After couples have honestly confronted offenses, given and received forgiveness, and decided to move forward with their lives, they still stand at a critical intersection in the road to relational healing.  At this point, couples must be very intentional in living like they have received and given the gift of forgiveness.  Stated differently, the likelihood of a lasting change will depend on how they treat each other after they have “cleared the air.”  If you have a “forgiveness summit” with your partner (kiss and make-up) and then go back to treating each other poorly, research clearly shows that you will likely return to square one.  In other words, the degree of positive reinforcement (doing “good things”) in your marriage following forgiveness will determine the long-term outcome.  We all have something like an emotional bank account that dramatically influences the likelihood that repair attempts will be successful.   An emotional bank account that is starting to fill with positive deposits will be able to “walk” in forgiveness much better than an “overdrawn” bank account that is receiving no positive emotional deposits.  An empty tank will not allow you go move forward.  This explains why apologies don’t do much good when someone is stressed by a lack of positivity in their relationship—and nothing actually changes after a truth session with their partner.

VI. What will happen when we as Christians decide to follow the road to reconciliation and restoration laid down in Matt. 18:15-17? We will be able to leave the past in our rearview mirror and move forward without the encumbrance of bitterness.
Gossip and slander will be silenced as we go to the offender first and refuse to give or receive a bad report.  (Matt. 18:15)
Christians will edify one another. (Eph. 4:29-32)
Loyalty will build security in the Body. (Prov. 16:28)
Physical health will improve. (Prov. 15:30 NAS)
The world will believeGod is in our midst as they see our love for one another.

VII.  Three Suggestions to Couples–In summary, here are three suggestions to guide your process of forgiveness:

1. Cultivate the Practice of Forgiving Small Things

Luke 16:10 “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that            is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.”

2. Capture Negative Thoughts and Take Positive Action

2 Corinthians 10:5: we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Ephesians 4:30-32:  “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were    sealed for the day of redemption. 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.”

3. Embrace the Fact that Forgiveness is Both an Act and an Ongoing Process—In addition to our responsibility to forgive others (as an act of our will), we must also stay in touch with the fact that our “old man” nature (which naturally wants to keep a record of wrong and seek revenge) must be regularly brought back to the Cross. 

      • It’s okay if you are not yet ready to forgive—just let your partner know that this is your desire, but that you need more time to process it correctly so that it is done with depth and sincerity.
      • Never discount the importance of your obedience in forgiving another person—this may a golden opportunity for the other person to experience God’s heart of love and forgiveness for the very first time—or at a depth they have not known before.
      • When forgiveness is needed, healing is also needed.  The amount of time required to bring about healing in another person is usually proportional to the depth of the transgression committed against them (small offense = quick recovery; serious offense = much slower recovery).
      • A serious offense often involves a loss of trust by the offended party.  The act of forgiveness does not necessarily mean that the offended party can or should automatically trust the offender (in cases of ongoing sexual abuse or chemical addictions, for example).  Trust restoration is a process.  Here is a suggested pathway for rebuilding trust in a relationship:

       Trust Is Rebuilt By Relentless :


R–eliability / Faithfulness / Predictability 

U–nselfishness / Unconditional Love 

S–ubmission to God / Each Other / Others 

T–ime Investment / Priorities  

For some other helpful information on forgiveness, check out :

“A happy marriage is the union of two forgivers.”—Ruth  Bell Graham.


A Baker’s Dozen for Your Marriage

From my earliest memory, I heard the term “baker’s dozen” and knew that it meant 13 of something.  As a kid, I thought it was really cool that someone would name a dozen of something for our family.  It really came alive for me when, at about age 6, I was sent into a bakery shop in Fredericksburg, Texas, with instructions from my parents to buy a dozen chocolate chip cookies to be consumed during the remainder of our road trip.  Much to my delight, the kind lady on the other side of the bakery counter handed me my sack and cheerfully said, “Here you are, son, a Baker’s dozen.”  I’m not sure where that 13th cookie went between the store and the waiting car outside (yea, right!), but by the time I returned to the car there were only 12 cookies in the sack. My father, who was a newspaper publisher and columnist for many decades in West Texas, wrote a column bearing that name.  His column, magically, always had 13 paragraphs!  Fortunately, he failed to ask me about that 13th cookie.

Anyway, when we started doing marriage stuff, we thought it only appropriate to come up with the 13 key things that we have learned about marriage—now over almost 49 years.

[For you history buffs, and to save you a trip to Wikipedia, a baker’s dozen (also a long dozen or long measure) dates to the 13th Century in one of the earliest English statutes, instituted during the reign of Henry III (1216–1272).  In very lawyerly fashion, it was called the Assize of Bread and Ale.  The bottom line was this:  Bakers who were found to have shortchanged customers (some variations say that they would sell hollow bread) could be subject to severe punishment including judicial amputation of a hand. To guard against losing a hand to an axe, a baker would give 13 for the price of 12 in order to be certain of not being known as a cheat. Specifically, the practice of baking 13 items for an intended dozen was insurance against “short measure,” on the basis that one of the 13 could be lost, eaten, burnt, or ruined in some way, leaving the baker with the original legal dozen. If you want to drown in history, check out the guild codes of the Worshipful Company of Bakers in London.]

 Anyway, if you’re wondering, here are the 13 suggestions that Carol and I would give to any couple seeking to build, or rebuild, a God-honoring marriage.  A Baker’s Dozen:

  1. Find and keep a mentor couple or couples in your life from Day 1.
  2. Find a way for physical touch every day (rubdowns, hugs, pats, entry and exit pecks, etc.).
  3. Never dishonor your mate to a third party (especially your own parents, siblings, or best friends). Exceptions:  when seeking help from trusted and seasoned counselors, or when your physical safety is being threatened.
  4. Banish the “D” word from your vocabulary.
  5. Never go to sleep at night without resolving your anger or having a specific plan for doing so.
  6. Be your partner’s strongest supporter and friend—not the Devil’s Advocate who advances the perspective of others in conflict with your partner. [A great way to do this: When you receive very good (or bad) news, make sure your partner is the first one to hear about it from you (borrowed from our dear friends, Gene and Judith Schneider, who made it well past 50 years together and taught us a lot].
  7. Be quick to say “I’m sorry, please forgive me,” and then make sure you try to repair the damage you have done.
  8. Learn how to experience your partner’s pain (through empathy) and then do everything possible to bring them comfort and healing.
  9. Get good at objectively explaining your partner’s perspective on “hot button” issues
  10. Be quick to ask of both your partner and other people, “What do you think about that?” when considering important decisions. (Men need to take advantage of the “helpmeet” radar system installed in every woman).
  11. On core issues, learn to tell the truth, but do it lovingly and at the right time. [Avoid “gushing” over the looks, skills, opinions, wisdom, or accomplishments of other people (extremely attractive people, high profile experts, etc.)]
  12. Never forget the power of praying together as a couple:
    1. For bringing healing to your partner’s soul, and
    2. For making decisions and obtaining Godly wisdom
  13. Give away to other couples the treasures that you have discovered along the way. (We have a clue from God, who did not make seedless grapes. They were seed-bearing and could reproduce–before men came along and made them sterile.  We also need to reproduce the good stuff we learn.)

If you’ll bring us a dozen good Oatmeal Raisin cookies, we’ll give you a 14th tip!


Converting a Marital Crisis Into A Fresh Start

Help!  Our marriage is falling apart!  What should I do?”

That is usually the gist of many emails and phone messages that come our way here at Marriage Foundations.  Strangely perhaps, our first internal response to these SOS calls is a thought like this: “Awesome! Here comes another opportunity to help a couple get serious about fixing their marriage.” When we get these types of calls, we often get a surge of faith and expectation.

Why would we have such a reaction?  “How weird…” you might say.  It’s because most folks (including us) don’t usually get serious about the deeper issues in their marriage until they have some type of serious rupture—where it looks like the whole thing is about to blow apart.  Although we would strongly recommend a more “maintenance-focused” strategy for keeping marriages healthy, we deal with another reality:  Most of us don’t really “get with the program” of marital repair until there is a major crisis—a big blowup, a huge betrayal, the wheels start coming off the wagon, etc.  However, when couples reach that place of desperation, they are usually on the brink of making some wonderful changes—despite how things might look at first glance.

Some of the “old school” research shows that there are several seasons in a marriage that seem, on average, to be particularly troublesome – the first year, the seventh year, the fifteenth year, and the 30th year.  (Marriages that survive and thrive beyond 30 years have only a tiny chance of ending in divorce!)  More recently, we have been hearing from the experts that most couples are now experiencing a major test to their relationship much earlier—on average in the fourth year.  We too have clearly seen that change in the landscape in our dealings with couples.  Our response? Younger couples need more support earlier than their parents did. That’s one of our favorite places to encourage couples.

The Good News
Although it would be great if we could avoid marital blowups altogether, that is not realistic, right? So, that leaves us with converting these crisis seasons into something positive. That is how God approaches almost everything.  He is a redemptive God—through and through.  Just think: He gave away his only Son to die on a cross so that all of mankind’s sins could be erased if we would only confess with our mouth and believe in our heart that He did it (Rom. 10:9). Talk about a crisis being converted into something wonderful!  Also, think about the Bible hero, Joseph: When his brothers stuffed him into a well, sold him into slavery, and then faked his untimely death to account for his absence, Joseph seized the opportunity to redeem the situation many years later by forgiving his brothers and telling them this: “…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…to save many people…” (Gen. 50:20).  God does the same thing with people in marital crisis who embrace his Biblical truth:  He takes the Enemy’s evil plan and all of our sinful junk and converts them into something good so that our children (and others who may be harmed) don’t have to grow up in a fractured home.  If I could put it in a multi-layered formula, it would look something like this:

            Sin + Selfishness = Damage to the Marriage 
            Damage = Crisis + Desperation for Change
            Crisis + Desperation = Motivation for Change
            Motivation For Change = A Teachable Couple 
            A Teachable Couple + A Glimmer of Hope = A Man and Woman  God Is Eager to Help

So, what if a couple is still in “meltdown” crisis and has not yet reached that place of hope and teach-ability?  The first place we start is to ask a couple to go with us on a journey in search of buried treasure.  The ultimate goal of this journey is to find and understand your partner’s deepest hurt or point of need and then work together toward healing.  If both people will relentlessly pursue that goal, God can do miracles in restoring and renewing their marriage. Ruptured relationships can be fixed only with intentional, targeted effort.


“Buried treasure is found by processing
a lot of ordinary, run-of-the-mill dirt.”– Bob Baker

The Healing Journey
 Here are some suggestions (modified significantly but inspired by Dr. David Hawkins of the Seattle area– on how to start down this road of discovery and restoration of hope:

1.      Take Inventory of How You Got To The Crisis Point.  You can do this by first writing out an honest history of your marriage. Problems don’t arise out of thin air, and the crisis that puts couples into a freefall of hopelessness is often just the perfect shockwave that forces them to look honestly at the totality of their relationship. Crisis events are usually the result of a long series of poorly handled situations and events.  With some honest reflection and space to think, you can very likely put your finger on most of the big issues.  When did they begin? What is your part in the problems? What past attempts have you made to remedy the problems? Counseling, confronting your partner with a loving tone, talking to mentors…? The goal is to find your partner’s deepest hurt or point of need…

2.      Write Out Your Partner’s Point of View. This begins by forcing yourself to process and articulate your partner’s complaints.  One of the first steps in helping a distressed couple is to encourage them to both see the situation from their partner’s perch. For many couples, this is a major turn in the road because they have long since fallen into the trap of spending all of their emotional energy rehashing and reacting to their partner’s shortcomings. It is amazing how much couples can learn when they stop emoting about their own pain and start listening carefully to what their partner is really saying.  We often find that the complaints leading to a crisis have existed for quite some time. The crisis is just the roaring flame—the real problem is the fuel beneath it.  Lots of people, either consciously or subconsciously, walk along in denial of the underlying issues—and their severity–until something explodes.  Remember, when writing this list of your partner’s complaints and point of view, the goal is to find your partner’s deepest hurt or point of need…

3.      Review Your Partner’s Complaints and Own What You Can.  We call this step, “Owning Your Own 5%.”  In other words, if you think your partner is 95% of the problem (which, by the way, is not an unusual scenario for couples in crisis), then you must own your remaining 5% as if it is 100% of the problem.  The key here is to let down all of your defense mechanisms, ask God for a strong dose of humility, and come clean with your own junk—no matter how small you may think it is.  Take the risk, especially in the protected presence of a trusted friend or counselor, to admit your part of the mess. Resist the temptation to emotionally “write” your partner’s “95% script” and trust the Lord to do what he does best—dealing with the hearts of people we cannot fix, especially our mate.  Over the years, we have often asked this question of women whose marriage has failed: “Why?” What went wrong? Why do you think your marriage failed?”  The answer we often get is this:  “I thought I could fix him.” As you learn to resist the temptation to be your partner’s conscience and to resign the job of change agent, you will start to have more bandwidth to move toward your goal: to find your partner’s deepest hurt or point of need. You will also create needed space for the Lord to work in your partner’s heart.

4.      Don’t Pass Up the Grief Process. If either partner has taken a big hit—such as learning of an affair, discovering their partner is addicted to porn, or finding out that the house is about to be foreclosed after the bills have been hidden for months—keep in mind that they have sustained a loss about as significant as the death of a loved one.  Thus, they need to be allowed time to work through the stages of grief.  Here is the classic cycle of grief:

Shock stage: Initial paralysis at hearing the bad news.
Denial stage: Trying to avoid the inevitable.
Anger stage: Frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion.
Bargaining stage: Seeking in vain for a way out.
Depression stage: Final realization of the inevitable.
Testing stage: Seeking realistic solutions.
Acceptance stage: Finally finding the way forward

For more information on grieving, from a Christian perspective, check out

5.      Remember That Marriage Restoration is a Process—Not at An Event.  The so-called “offender” in marital ruptures (the perceived bad guy) will usually want the process of restoration to move a lot faster than it normally can.  Thus, he or she must ask for God’s extra grace in allowing the other person to find recovery at their own pace. Rushing the process (“Why can’t you just drop it and move on? You keep beating me up about it”) will probably have the opposite effect.  In general, the deeper the betrayal the longer it will take for forgiveness and soul healing to occur. Here’s the good news: Just like a broken bone, if you don’t rush the process and let it heal on God’s timetable, it will often grow back even stronger than the original fracture. (We learned this from our family doctor when our daughter, Christie, rolled off a bed and broke her collar bone at about age 5).

6.      Be Alert to the Presence of Previous Soul Wounds.  Although we teach entire workshops on this one issue, here is the bottom line: When we have taken a big hit in our marriage, we usually respond with anger.  Since anger is a secondary emotion (usually fueled by deeper emotions) it is important that we get in touch with the underlying emotion (such as a feeling of hurt, betrayal, inadequacy, inferiority, fear, etc.).  Once that emotion is identified, then we need to determine whether the level of anger is being fueled by the “steroid effect” of a prior wound—often from childhood.  Pre-existing, unresolved soul wounds from an earlier time make it much more difficult to recover from a marital rupture—at least until they are taken to the Cross for healing.  For more on this whole topic, see, and watch for our upcoming workshop and couple retreat events on this subject.

7.      Launch or Step-up Your Prayer Life and Seek Counsel. While facing a volatile marital crisis, you must maintain proper perspective—keeping focused on the fact that you can work only on yourself, can only change yourself, and cannot change your partner (as discussed above).  To get and keep this perspective, you need to cry out for Godly wisdom in prayer and to seek the wisdom of a trusted counselor or mentor.  You need to embrace and stand on the promises of God.  Here are three verses which have helped many couples to find “the way back” to a God-honoring marriage:

Rom. 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peaceas you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

Mt. 19:26:  “Jesus…said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ ”

8.      Zero-In on Your Mate’s Deepest Hurt or Point of Need. What does she (or he) need right now? Using their complaints as your starting point, consider what your mate needs right now. This can be a bit difficult, because what they need may be something you don’t want to give, such as space. Reeling from an emotional crisis themselves, your partner may want you to allow them some space to consider how they feel about you and the marriage. They may want you to show acts of kindness that you have long since failed to show. They may demand that you go “take care of YOUR issues” and then they might be willing to talk about your future as a couple. When a person is over-compensating (out of their wounding) with unreasonable requests, you may need to “over correct” with good for a season even though you consider the requests unfair.  Broken trust demands a whole series of over-corrections to get it restored.  Trust is often a big part of your partner’s greatest point of need (Rom. 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”)

9.      Finally, Be Willing to Carry Out a Behavior Change Process. With the help of a trusted third party, you should write a “behavior change plan” for both partners which is designed to enhance the environment for meeting your partner’s greatest hurt or point of need. Keep in mind that even small changes can have a powerful, positive impact on the healing process. Every positive interaction with your mate has the potential to change your mate’s opinion about you. Be patient and allow God’s timing to unfold just like you would if you had a broken bone or a brain concussion.  Our motto in this regard is: “Think small, and think often.” A lot of “littles” soon add up to a “big.”

“Forgiveness is essential in the recovery process.  Remember that forgiveness is a two-sided coin. One side is the “act of the will” aspect.  The other is the healing side. In addition to deciding and declaring to forgive someone, we also need to seek healing for the wounds associated with the acts forgiven”—Bob Baker

If you need some help with this process, you can reach us at



It’s All About Love

Where do you start a blog?  A friend, who has encouraged me to start this one, offered this suggestion: “Just tell them everything you know about marriage.”  Well, since Carol and I are about to celebrate 49 years of marriage, that could take a while, right? Don’t worry, we know it’s the Sound Bite Century, so we’ll give it to you in small bites.

As I thought about our maiden voyage to Blogville, it was immediately clear that it all starts with love—the love we have for God, the love He has for us, the love we have for our mate and kids, and (for years very foreign to me), the love we have for ourselves. (I was well into my 30’s before I had any clue that it was okay to love myself. That permission was not in my Boy Scout handbook).

In marriage, here’s the bottom line: We probably can’t effectively give away something that we don’t have. That includes love. If you’re married, or even thinking about it, you need to get very good at both giving and receiving love. Otherwise, your bucket will run dry fairly quickly—and so will your mate’s. Our love buckets are both leaky and subject to rust—if not well-oiled with love on a regular basis.

Like a lot of folks I know, I grew up believing (at least subconsciously) that I deserved love only if I was performing at a high level. So, for many years, although I was doing fine at work, I would blow it relationally.  Then, I would feel disqualified from being loved until I could become a “good boy” again for some indeterminate redemption season. Thus, when my wife would simply try to make a gentle suggestion for change, I would self-destruct emotionally, put my tail between my legs like a whipped puppy, and sulk for a few days.  Not a pretty picture. Not an atmosphere for a maturing, God-honoring marriage, right?

Praise God, things began to drastically change about 12 years into our marriage. A big reason for that change was simply learning about the kind of love God offers us—absolutely for free. Here are some of the amazing truths that I have discovered along the way. They deserve our ongoing reflection as we navigate through life and marriage:

1. God loves us unconditionally. Wow, what a profound truth! (For most of us, that is a foreign concept. That’s probably because human love seems to flow to us only when we are performing well, right?) But, for another kind of love, check out the Bible: When the heavens opened up at the baptism of Jesus, his Heavenly Dad spoke these powerful words that we all long to hear: “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased”(Mt. 3:17). Have you ever noticed that the Father’s declaration of love and blessing came BEFORE Jesus did anything spectacular? (like healing the sick, multiplying the loaves and fishes, walking on water, etc). He loves you and me that same way–just because we’re His kids! Awesome!

2. When we learn to tap into this unconditional love, God brings healing to our wounds and restores us to wholeness. Here’s why: THAT kind of love can deeply touch the places in our heart and soul that need supernatural healing—the same banged up parts of our heart and soul that fuel our ugliness toward those around us. It blows my mind that God sent his only Son to the cross as a perfect sacrifice for our sins even before people like us felt guilty about them. (Rom. 5:8: “…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”).

3. When we get in contact with some of this “amazing love” and have it deposited in our hearts, it helps us see ourselves through God’s eyes and to love ourselves as He does. Therefore, when we blow it, we don’t have to beat ourselves up until we think we deserve his love again. We can start to get over our junk simply by asking forgiveness and then trying to fix any damage we may have caused with our sin—both damage to ourselves and others. That is good news, don’t you think?

4. When we feel loved and lovable as an individual, we have the capacity to do something amazing for those around us: To allow God’s love and grace to spill over to our spouse, our kids, and others. The Bible clearly tells us that God can actually fill us with enough joy, peace, and hope that we can “overflow” to others by the power of His Spirit (Rom. 15:13). What a deal! Sure beats running on fumes…

Rom. 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peaceas you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Refresh and Re-Direct Your Marriage (Through Soul-Healing Love) – Retreat

Come and learn how to

Integrate psychological principles Bible truth about relationships
Embrace God’s unconditional love as a source of healing past wounds
Identify the root causes of marital frustration and anger Convert your anger into a powerful source for finding and repairing your deepest “soul wounds” from previous life experience

Redirect the emotional energy previously directed to anger to a life-giving compassion for your mate
Connect your marital “hot spots” to previous “soul wounds” brought into marriage, and then develop a practical game plan for moving forward
Launch a new level of prayer and intimacy with your partner.

Presenters will be  Bob and Carol Baker of Marriage Foundations of Colorado

This retreat presented by:
Denver United

Building a strong marriage and family culture in Colorado since 1991.