Saying “sorry” even when you know you are right is the same as doing penance when you are innocent. For a husband to be able to do this is a grace from God; his action would be united to Christ on the Cross (cf. Ephesians 5:23) He was innocent, yet Jesus did the ultimate penance for those who are guilty. If Jesus can do penance for His enemies, then I should be able to say sorry to my wife even though I know I’m right.
Our men’s group is reading Tim Keller’s “The Meaning of Marriage.” The focus is on Ephesians 5 and the challenge that most men fail to see (including me) is that Christ suffered for His bride. Am I willing to suffer for my bride? Dying once for my love is tragic and romantic, but what about dying a little everyday through denying myself what I want in order to please my wife?
How many men think husbands who constantly forsake their own interests for their wives’ is stupid? Most men would think it is more reasonable to compromise, “I’ll give up something, if my wife gives up something.” Did Christ ask the same of His bride? “I’ll go to the Crucifixion if you stop stoning prostitutes and permit healing on the Sabbath.” Instead, Christ asks God to forgive the Pharisees persecuting Him because they didn’t know what they’re doing (cf. Lk 23:34). Jesus offered Himself first.
I am reminded of this every time when I take the Eucharist. I may not stop sinning immediately. Awareness of His self-sacrifice and developing a personal conversation with Him through prayer, I start wanting to change for Him. I start to see my sins as empty promises. By the grace of God, the temptations are not so tempting anymore. I feel the strength to resist. One day, I realize that a particular chain isn’t around my ankle anymore. I smile and work with the Holy Spirit to unfetter my soul from the grip of other sins.
So, I must offer myself to my wife first. I cannot expect her to change first, or bargain to have her change with me. It’s not about reciprocity. It’s about following Christ: He laid down His life for His bride first. I do the same. If I cannot forgive my wife even when she refuses to say sorry, how can I meet Christ’s greater challenge to forgive my enemies?
The more I live my marriage as God intends it, the more people will think I’m a “hen-pecked” man. The more I please my wife and not ask for anything in return, the more people will think I’m “being taken advantaged of.” This is the world’s opinion; they judge without the light of faith. They do not see the Holy Spirit at work in her. She has grown so much and I had nothing to do with it. Her prayer life, her own journey with God did it. She is a woman whom I love more than the day I proposed to her. She is a mother I admire. I watch her interior life grow, like the petals of a flower in slow bloom. I do not pick the flower to adorn my pocket, but just watch it. Learn from it. Because I’m a flower, too. We are growing, blooming, for God.