(The following is the third article in a 4-part series “SAFE At Home.” In June of this year we began by addressing the top ten issues facing families today and hit upon “Family Communication.” Then I decided to take a slight detour and to focus upon four ways a husband/father can improve his family’s communication.
Last month it was “Accept!” This month is “Forgive!” and we will finish the year off with “Encourage!”)
It all started with the first man and woman. The woman, Eve, was deceived, to doubt and disobey God’s word by the enemy who was disguised as a wise serpent. The man, Adam, responded to the temptation and chose to sin as well. Suddenly they were both filled with the guilt and shame of their actions and they attempted to hide their nakedness before a holy God by sewing together a couple of fig leaves.
The next thing that occurred was that they each tried to shift the responsibility for their own actions to the actions of someone else. The man blamed the woman and the woman blamed the serpent. Then God mercifully did something that foreshadowed what He would do thousands of years later through His own Son. He provided an innocent animal as a sacrifice to clothe the couple with its skin.
Here in the Garden we see the same dynamic that is repeated in families today as they attempt to deal with sin. Both husbands and wives take this all too familiar route of trying to cover their shame by their own efforts. And as a husband and father there are 1001 ways I can do this. It may mean the denial of the pain I can inflict upon my wife or children by numbing my conscience through a variety of forms of escape or self-comforting techniques. Another strategy is casting the blame, which is also a way I try to cope.
Do any of these sound familiar? “I could love my wife if she were only more loving and respectful back to me.” Or “You don’t know MY wife. She is really hard to love. I just can’t forgive her for (fill in the blank).” Or “She is making it impossible for me. I’ll show her a little kindness when I get a little from her.” Whether spoken or just thought, this is where many men live. It is called “the blame game” and we all have played it at one time or another.
These two ways of dealing with the rift between us and God, our spouse and our kids, that of covering the shame or casting blame are a well-worn ruts in the relationship road that have been around since Adam and Eve. But there is another way that replaces the death-producing fruit of shame and blame with the life-giving fruit of forgiveness. When God foreshadowed the sending of His Son to die by sacrificing an innocent animal, the animal skin still had to be humbly received and put on by the couple to make this sacrifice apply to their need.
Forgiveness is really not too much for us to EXTEND when we consider the EXTENT of our own forgiveness. Our wives and children are looking to us to lead in this area, to be "the first to go to the cross.” As a speaker I heard recently said, “There may be no guarantee against a prodigal wife, son or daughter, but one thing is for sure, that when we lead in this way, the way for the prodigal back to the Father will be wide open for their return.”
So, if we are to create safety in our homes, forgiveness that is rooted in our being forgiven through the cross of Christ needs to be practiced regularly. What does this look like? When we fail, we own up and face our need to come to the cross for forgiveness. When we are offended, we are quick to offer forgiveness to a family member. In God’s strength we resist the temptation to cover up, minimize deny or to retaliate in some way. We are sources of renewing life to our families when we lead the way here. We go first!