Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” Hosea 3:1
It wasn’t raisin cakes, but my love of mustard that caused my first marital fight. We had run out of our monthly grocery budget and mustard. In a strange, out-of-character move (I’m the spender in our marriage and Lindsay is the rule following saver), I dug my heels in saying we could not spend the $2.35 necessary for mustard.
The newness of our marriage was being tested through this disagreement. Would we show grace towards each other? Would we stubbornly hold to our convictions and principles? Would we argue just for the sake of arguing?
Would we show grace to each other?
Grace is “getting what you do not deserve.” Marriage is the mission field where we are called daily to demonstrate grace. For some reason, our culture tells us love comes easily and naturally. However, sacrificial love takes sacrifice, discipline and surrender. It takes fighting to build that relational resiliency.
Honestly, I cannot recall if we bought mustard that night or not. But these little squabbles provided opportunities to learn how to fight for our marriage when the bigger issues would threaten to rip us apart. Then we learned how, in these torn places, to allow God’s grace to pull us back together.
As Lindsay has said about her counseling practice–“couples who come in fighting are far better off than those in a stalemate because they at least believe there is something worth fighting for in their marriage.” The challenge becomes fighting the good fight that allows both to feel valued, heard and forgiven.
Many marriages follow the pattern of David and Michal, where a slow wedge begins to divide them.
- Love at First Sight–1 Samuel 18:20–“Michal was in love with David.”
- She tries to protect him–1 Samuel 19:11–“Michal warned David…”
- He neglects her.
- He becomes demanding and entitled–2 Samuel 3:14–“Then David…demanded, “Give me my wife Michal, whom I betrothed to myself for the price of a hundred Philistine foreskins.”
- She despises him–2 Sam 6:16–“She despised him in her heart.”
David is focused on self-preservation and self-promotion. He becomes King, yet there is no mention of Queen Michal. In fact, David’s ego swelled (2 Sam 5:10-12) so that he eventually marries many wives and purchases many concubines. While his kingdom and progeny grew, Michal was left neglected, and ignored: “Michal had no children to the day of her death” (2 Sam 6:23).
As a result, the last we hear about Michal is that at David’s highest achievement–bringing the ark of the covenant back into Jerusalem, surrounded by his army, and triumphantly marching home–we are told that “Michal despised him in her heart.”
Michal went from loving to despising her husband because he had neglected her for years. Instead he focused on his business, and allowed himself to be seduced by his growing power and prestige.
If only they had fought. By fighting they would have strengthened their marriage for the long run. They would have learned that marriage in the Bible is not a contract, but a covenant promise. It is not an emotional feeling, but a resilient promise. It is a mission field where the practices of grace, mercy, confession and forgiveness need to be demonstrated daily.
In fact, perhaps that is why one of the best models of Biblical marriage comes not from Adam+Eve, Abram+Sara or David+Michal, but Hosea and Gomer. Though Gomer persistently falls short of her mission to be a loving and faithful wife, God calls Hosea to “Go, show your love to your wife again.” He is called daily to sacrifice his ego and entitlement in order to lavish (hesed) love upon her.