I am a bipolar spouse. Also, I am a bipolar spouse with a failed marriage and a currently extremely successful marriage. I hope this doesn’t come off preachy. It’s just one element my bipolar marriage has taught me.
In our world today “grace” can carry any number of definitions. It’s something that I write about often on my blog. It’s easier said than done and typically that’s acceptable today. Because people need to earn our forgiveness before we give it. We’ve all heard the expression of some sorts, “Oh I’ve forgiven “them,” but they better not…(you fill in the blank).” Shallow grace. Grace today is generally accepted with words and no action.
The answer to this is a “no brainer.” Grace is hard. Grace involves action. Grace being vulnerable and at risk. Actions that makes you cringe at the thought of. Actions that let them off the hook and makes you look weak and gullible.
My definition: Forgiveness without justification.
And it’s easier for us to view and accepts God’s grace even though we never deserve it and never will. It’s easier for us view God’s grace as loving and trust that it will always be there. It’s easy for us to take it for granted. It’s almost impossible for us to see God weak and naive with His grace. Most of the time we accept His grace as if we deserve it.
The first three and a half years of my wife’s and my marriage was rocky to say the least. Our devotion to each other was tested like nothing either of us had ever experienced. Our willingness to sacrifice individually was broken on many occasions. For much of that time I failed to extend my wife grace. My illogical reasons: I didn’t receive grace. I didn’t receive what I wanted or needed.
Marriage has taught me my wife is sometimes God’s hands. Sometimes His teacher. Sometimes His mirror seeing my own reflection.
For much of our marriage I carried the baggage of hurt and bitterness and not all necessarily from her. I harbored anger and resentment that flowed into our marriage. I was the victim of a previous unfaithful wife who walkout ending in a divorce. I was the victim of parental alienation and separation from my children. I was the victim of a nasty custody dispute that stole many things from our marriage and myself that lasted for three years.
Everything impacted my wife. It angered her. She was hurt. She became bitter and fed up with was thrown at us. And she had every right. But blinded by own emotions I couldn’t see, or refused to, her frailties. Her insecurities. I pushed aside the fact that she had never encountered the problems we were undergoing . I would not accept the fact that she was not educated on bipolar let alone being married to someone who struggles with it. Spouses with bipolar are likely to have a different impression of their marriage than their husband or wife.
Much of our marriage I have been plagued with my bipolar episodes. Episodes that got me into trouble legally and financially. Episodes I fed with alcohol. So much of our marriage my wife has shared the burdens of my bipolar episodes cleaning up my messes. Taking charge because of my incapability’s. Showing me grace and not giving up on me.
In my last post I stated that my wife and I both believed and agreed that divorce is not an option. It was almost impossible at times during those times that everything was stacked against us. Coming from divorces each we agreed no matter what came our way we would never give up and bail out. And we never have. That can only be possible by grace. Not with words, but with actions.
There came a point for me when the words of Jesus came out loud and clear; “…forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…for if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matt 6:12. Words often read and said but rarely taken seriously.
For God to forgive me, show me grace, I must forgive and show grace to my wife and to my family. Nor does it end there. My wife is God’s hand teaching me to forgive and extend grace to others.
It’s not a “give to receive” formula. Or even attitude. But I can’t help to question myself on almost a daily basis, “What am I doing or have done that I expect God’s grace?” Because expecting would make me bigger than God. That He owes me. “What do I take His grace granted for?” “Am I believing I deserve my wife’s and God’s grace?” “Do I extend grace to my wife?” “Am I learning to extend grace to myself?”
Truth is we tend to act any way we want never seeing how much God is extending His grace. We can question any of our spouse’s motives and actions. We can get angry and bitter over any of their habits and down fallings. We can be quick to point out their downfalls. We can do all this while deafening our own ears to God who doesn’t keep score. What would we do if we was to hear Him remind us of our sins? Or better yet, our sins against our spouse?
I think we would be naive and lying to deny that at least once in our marriage question, wonder or contemplate we made a mistake. It’s often a hurtful experience, a devastating circumstance or painful trial where we can allow these thoughts to wander endlessly in our minds.
But what do we do, in the darkness of thoughts, when forgiveness refuses to come? What if circumstances desperately attempt to convince us that forgiveness is not to be wasted and hopeless? Yet, we angrily demand it for ourselves.
We risk and learn that it is an awesome shift in our souls as we move un-forgiveness towards forgiveness. Resistance is strong. Expect feeling far from God.
Grace is scary. It’s not a one-time event. It’s a commitment that never begins with a feeling but rather a choice. It means trying again and taking risks.
Forgiveness through grace is not a demand, it’s an alternative. The truth is when it comes to Christian faith, as followers, we don’t have to forgive….we should and have a choice. If we chose not to, our hearts become bitter and resentful. Nor are we given by God. The greatest lie of bitterness is that it convinces us that the other person made us bitter. The truth is, we alone are responsible for the content of our hearts.
Marriage has taught me the importance of grace. There will always be things to challenge us with the choice of to forgive or not to forgive. But so will at times place I put my wife in the position to make her choice.
There’s something empowering about radical grace and unconditional love. Unfortunately many spouses make their love conditional; extending only if receiving. But those things free us, and the power to transform our lives. Marriage has taught me grace. Not just for my wife, but for my children, my family, friends, associates and strangers.
Forgiveness does not change our past troubling marriage, but it does enlarge our future. It doesn’t stop in my marriage. Grace is not limited to my wife. Marriage has taught me everyone needs grace.
Some people are so annoying. Some people eat with their mouths open. Some people won’t quit bothering you. Some people don’t move their arms while they walk. Some people steal your fries. Some people blow smoke in your direction. Some people swear around their kids. Some people won’t shut up about their problems as they refuse to do something about it. Some people don’t put the seat down. Some people are always complaining about how their life is. Some people never do anything with their lives. .
Some people….”those people” need a little extra patience. A little extra understanding. A little extra time. A little extra grace.
We all have people like this in our lives. Maybe it’s your boss, an annoying co-worker, a bratty little brother or even your spouse.
Or maybe it’s you. Maybe it’s me.
Maybe none of us are perfect. Maybe all of us need a little extra grace. Maybe it’s our spouse.
Next: Part 4; What marriage has taught me: The myth of “Just because someone doesn’t love you the way you .want them to, doesn’t mean they don’t love you.”