unfinished business: moving from rudeness to kindness

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Recalling my parents’ or my grandparents’ marriage fills me, somewhat, with dread and fear. While I must give thanks to God that my parents are still married today and they have both changed over the years, the fact is first impressions last.

One of the most useful wedding gifts I received is a Couples’ Devotional Bible from my Cantonese pastor. Its pages are interspersed with interesting devotionals and this one speaks about the baggage we carry from our parents’ marriage:

Everyone, knowingly or not, marries with the hope that their mate and their marriage will heal past wounds. That’s the unfinished business we bring into marriage. Many of us carry wounds from our childhood. And sometimes, as in my case, the wounds come later in life.

Ever since my dad left my mom, I’ve recognised my heightened need for trust. I watched my dad decide that his marriage was no longer worth the investment. I admit that sometimes I fear the same thing could happen to me. In light of the unfinished business I brought into my marriage, I long for certainty. I’m tempted to wonder if I’m ‘good enough’ to prevent my marriage from following the same course as my parents’.

There are no quick fixes for the unfinished business we inherit from our parents. But my husband, Les, has given me time — even when it requires sacrifices on his part. He’s allowed me time to heal, and it has restored my ability to trust.

I now see that my father’s decision to leave Mom didn’t make me heir to the disease of unfaithfulness. Their crisis simply brought me face-to-face with the world’s oldest disease: sin. It revealed the hidden crevices of my marriage and gave me courage to face my own unfinished business. — Leslie Parott, Couples’ Devotional Bible

Fear that history would repeat itself strikes me hardest whenever I’m rude or disrespectful to my husband and we’re in a sullen mood generally. Psychology would say that awareness is the first step to overcoming that fear. It’s true, but I also think awareness sometimes just drives me to despair.

The hope I cling on to is that God promises to renew every one who is in Christ. It may seem like an odd quality to pray for, but I asked God today for kindness. The kindness I’ve never seen modeled in my parents’ marriage but which I long to have. Why shouldn’t my heart be tender with my own husband?

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