Ben: We move into our last section on grace. We've talked about how we encountered grace in terms of forgiveness, healing and intimacy and now we'll speak to it in terms of faith.
One of the fears that keep us from offering grace to another is that somehow doing so means I will shrink or be less. Another way of saying that is the offense really didn't matter, that my heart and soul really don't matter.
What I discovered over the fourteen months or 444 days is the opposite. I wrestled with a deep desire to punish in retribution (Ann will tell you that at times that desire became a reality with my sharp tongue). I longed to be free of the pain and pondered the illusion of peace in a divorce and I ignored my own need for the grace of God. I had a vision of a way through it all but I was fogged in with the psalmist saying, 'How long will this go on?'
About thirteen months in I went for a training with two coworkers to Indy. We were there for several days. While there we watched some pornographic movies in our hotel rooms. We also went to a topless bar where we took turns buying one another lap dances. None of this is prescriptive by the way. I am not advocating it. I am saying God can and does pour grace everywhere I go.
When the woman was on my lap we chatted. I enjoyed that and the closeness with her. The skin on her shoulder was soft. Something in me understood how Ann could continue on with her affair once she had begun.
Later on I felt fallen. My inner residence transformed to knee high on a rat in the gutter of Scumbag Street. I was getting back in touch with my real condition. I'm not worthy to be loved by God yet he chooses to love me with all of who He is. At the same time with faith in Him there is a part of me that can love with abandon and His grace can flow through to others in my life, even a wife who made me a cuckhold for three years.
God continued to illuminate the depth of my sin and the glory of His light in me. Six weeks after that trip to Indy I was eventually able to allow that Grace to fully go through me to Ann. I learned through all of this that,
it takes faith to offer grace, and as you offer grace, your faith grows.
Offering Ann grace did not diminish me in the least. God grew my soul by allowing me to hurt over being betrayed, allowing me to grieve over the depth of sin in my own actions and more subtly in my own heart. My heart became light after extending grace. Ann's did too.
God is about something bigger than my comfort. Trusting Him is essential in offering grace. It is scary to trust God. In trusting God the illusion of control disintegrates in the wind like white dandelion seeds drifting into the unknown. In trusting God, we are called to give up our right to revenge and offer His grace to others. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. That's Matthew 6:11-12 and it can be an excruciating passage to live out fully.
Ann: So much of the time I wasn't sure we'd make it through this either. Sometimes my heart puffed up and I had the attitude that Ben could do what he wanted. He was working in a town about 50 miles away and talked of getting an apartment there and living there most of the week and coming 'home' for weekends. I didn't have the best of responses in my heart to this possible new development. I thought, "I don't need him; I can make it on my own. If he's doing this to see if I can do it on my own, well, I'll show him a thing or two, cause I know I can do it on my own.' Put a little head bobbing in there, and you'll get the attitude just about right. Not a very grace-ful reaction, eh?
I'm so glad that God sees deeper than that in me. To the me that is more true. To the me that is humbled by the thought of His grace coming toward me even when I have those black thoughts. His grace did come. Ben didn't move 50 miles away. My heart was softened. By grace. I am ever grateful that it was. And ever grateful that not only my heart was softened, but so was Ben's.
Harry Schaumburg has a quote I really like,
Faith is knowing that he sees us in the chaos, not that we see him. Even if you are not feeling his grace, it is still coming towards you.
We were often confused in the pain and disruption of our lives. At times it was difficult to see where God was or even if He was. He is. He says call me, I AM. I AM is always moving towards us with grace. Knowing that His grace was always coming toward me, gave me a great sense of gratitude.