Restoration or Reconciliation?

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LW.ToxicRelationships.couple-on-couch.FI_-e1573139155889ion

If one individual is more concerned about restoring their marriage than another, there’s probably something wrong. That doesn’t mean I’m against marriage, or obedience, or loving God and my neighbor. But when someone wants to “restore” a relationship, here are questions that come to mind:

  • Is this a mutual concern? If it’s one-sided, wisdom dictates separate counseling in a safe, confidential, non-threatening atmosphere.
  • What is the desired outcome for the marriage? What would it look like? Feel like? What changes need to take place? Is that realistic? How would one know he/she reached the goal? How would that be different than what’s happening now?
  • What is the current status of the relationship? What does it look like? Sound like? Again, if there is disparity here, individual investigation should come in to play. It is common for both parties in an abusive relationship to minimize, justify, or excuse abuse for very different reasons. If a target of abuse is sharing unbelievable examples, however, take her at her word. She is being unusually vulnerable. Be tender, gentle, and careful to protect her as she discloses secrets she may have hidden for years.
  • When has the marriage shown evidence of the desired outcome? It’s possible the conversation is not about restoring the relationship to what it was. If it is, an abuser is most likely feeling that he’s lost a sense of control. She’s not as submissive as she used to be (or “should” be). She’s not cooperating with his agenda. She’s not (fill in the blank).
  • Hence the follow up question, what did the marriage look like to begin with? What was good? Healthy? Balanced? Christ-centered? If the starting point benefited one to the detriment of another, restoration is ungodly to say the least.

Restoration of marriage in a godly sense is wonderful. It reflects the living dynamics of the gospel–of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ–confession, repentance and forgiveness. In a mutual relationship, both individuals desire change. In an unhealthy, imbalanced marriage, there is an appearance of change on one side with expected change on the other. Ironically, the person that refuses to change is the one that needs it most. This may also call into question one’s history and personal relationship with God. How real is it? Was it? How much was a show? Only time, words, and actions will tell (Matthew 23:28).

It’s also possible that in an unhealthy, dominated marriage, the one suffering abuse has come to the point of leaving until change is realized. That’s not the wrong decision. It’s not anti-God or anti-Bible. It’s not outside God’s power or reach. It is not outside God’s sovereign will. It’s a result of natural consequences. And God uses natural consequences.

Change, transformation, repentance and godly sorrow risk our protect-the-appearance-of-marriage-at-any-cost mentality. It dislodges our comfort or way of thinking. Just because it doesn’t fit our mold does not mean it’s wrong or sinful. It may be just the opposite.

In the case of one individual controlling the other, the proper word is not “restoration” but “reconciliation.” That involves a lot of space, time, repentance, change and forgiveness. Experts in the field of domestic violence recommend immediate physical separation followed by 3-5 years of healing. Yes, 3-5 YEARS. Compared to the years they have under their belt, that may be a relatively small number. Compared to a healthy, God-honoring, reconciled marriage, it’s a small price to pay. The time and effort required (if both are willing) emphasizes the destruction and deep-seated damage one individual can wreak on another. Sin is serious. We, the Church, sisters and brothers in Christ, have taken this too lightly–or overlooked it altogether. It’s time for us to join the Lord’s side, roll up our sleeves, and get our hands dirty for the sake of Christ and those He loves.

Who is on the Lord’s side? Who will serve the King?
Who will be His helpers, other lives to bring?
Who will leave the world’s side? Who will face the foe?
Who is on the Lord’s side? Who for Him will go?
By Thy call of mercy, by Thy grace divine,
We are on the Lord’s side—Savior, we are Thine!

Not for weight of glory, nor for crown and palm,
Enter we the army, raise the warrior psalm;
But for love that claimeth lives for whom He died:
He whom Jesus saveth marches on His side.
By Thy love constraining, by Thy grace divine,
We are on the Lord’s side—Savior, we are Thine!

Jesus, Thou hast bought us, not with gold or gem,
But with Thine own lifeblood, for Thy diadem;
With Thy blessing filling each who comes to Thee,
Thou hast made us willing, Thou hast made us free.
By Thy grand redemption, by Thy grace divine,
We are on the Lord’s side—Savior, we are Thine!

Fierce may be the conflict, strong may be the foe,
But the King’s own army none can overthrow;
’Round His standard ranging, vict’ry is secure,
For His truth unchanging makes the triumph sure.
Joyfully enlisting, by Thy grace divine,
We are on the Lord’s side—Savior, we are Thine!

Chosen to be soldiers, in an alien land,
Chosen, called, and faithful, for our Captain’s band;
In the service royal, let us not grow cold,
Let us be right loyal, noble, true and bold.
Master, wilt Thou keep us, by Thy grace divine,
Always on the Lord’s side—Savior, always Thine!

Author: Frances R. Havergal (1877)

One thought on “Restoration or Reconciliation?

  1. Pingback: Trust Tree | Seeking Sanctuary

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