Twenty-five years ago, my wife and I moved into a lovely farmhouse in the country. But in our hunt for that house, we made huge blunders in understanding (or misunderstanding) each other, and those communication errors stressed our marriage.
Within a few years, those growing tensions contributed to significant marriage difficulties. We saw a Christian counselor, and after an extended time of talking and praying, my wife and I began to find relational healing; we buried the hatchet.
Three years ago, we decided to sell that farmhouse. We followed conventional wisdom like painting, countertops, and staging. Last May, after many months of selling, we finally accepted an offer. We thought the hard work was over.
Until we began the hunt for our next house.
The day we signed that offer, we went golfing; partly to celebrate the long-awaited sale, and partly to plan the search for our next home. By the fifth hole, we had both said things—words we wish we could take back—that reopened all those “healed” wounds from twenty-five years ago.
Those fresh, old memories hurt deeply. They didn’t help our golf scores either. Garth Brooks once wrote a song about marriage. In the chorus he moans,
We bury the hatchet, but leave the handle sticking out.
O Ye of Little Faith
Our new buyers wanted possession in mid-August. From May to July, we combed through every house Zillow offered, and we came up empty. We reluctantly began to look for a rental. A month before closing, the buyers said we could stay in our old house for free through October. My wife and I thanked God for removing that pressure.
But in the morning I woke up and cried, “God, why haven’t you yet given us a new house?
We closed with the new owners in August and rekindled our quest. By October, we had found nothing, and we looked again for a rental. Two weeks later, the new owners contacted us, and told us we could stay here through March.
I again thanked God for his grace, and the next morning I again cried out, “Will you ever give us the house we long for?”
Both times I had desperately prayed that God would help, and both times he answered my prayer in a way I didn’t anticipate: he simply let us stay in the house we both love.
And both times, it took me only twenty-four hours to demand again my own agenda.
Ask me to visit a friend in the hospital, or to give money to a poor family, or to swim the deepest ocean. Just don’t ask me to wait. And yet waiting is the season God has put me in.
The tensions in our marriage continued last fall as we frantically continued our pursuit. Last November we decided to pause our search until January, and just pray. Our prayer this time was different. Instead of asking God to help us find a house, each morning we met and prayed:
Father, may you be glorified in the process of our looking, and may that search strengthen our love for each other.
Two weeks ago, we began to look for houses once more. And it has been wondrously peaceful. Our discussions have been grace-filled and loving. No hint of past woundings. It’s a miracle!
But we still can’t find a house that suits the mission we want, and we must be out of this one in eight weeks. Then, last Saturday, the new owners invited us to stay here an extra two months.
I am completely undeserving of God’s grace (which, I suppose, is why it’s called grace). I’ve acted unmerciful to my wife and untrusting in God’s faithfulness. It’s not just my past sins. My present sins deserve God’s stern rebuke.
But on the cross, he buried the hatchet. End of chorus.
P. S. For us to bury and forget past wounds, we need first to find healing in our relationship with God; and that involves hearing God’s voice. It’s normal to hear God, but most of us aren’t taught how. Healing in God means intimate theology, which means both speaking and listening.
Please watch the video bel0w (Is Hearing God Normal), and please consider buying, Hearing God in Conversation.
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Buried hatchets are the darndest things, rising out of the earth like the Witch of Endor’s vision of Samuel, and just as deadly. Reminds me of the line from the Jars of Clay song “Safe to Land”: “I search for shelter near the mines we swept; I guess forgiveness hasn’t happened yet.”
Thanks for the testimony of grace.
Samuel C. Williamson
I like you closing line, “Thanks for the testimony of grace.”
Too often I’m telling myself (or telling God) all the “good” things I’ve done, as though that will gain God’s favor. What I really need to remind myself is all the “bad” I’ve done, and yet God loves me still.
It’s only when I admit my faults and accept God’s love; it’s only then that I know the gospel of grace.
Scripture tells us we must forgive, and we try. The human problem is that we are both forgetful in many ways and still able to draw from a deep well of memory. To truly forgive we must be able to forget. Since God alone can truly forgive and forget, maybe the point of us attempting to forgive is to simply learn to appreciate what we are incapable of ourselves.
Samuel C. Williamson
I love your closing line, “to appreciate what we are incapable of ourselves.”
Maybe that is essence of worship: that we are incapable and he alone is able.
The RICHES of His Grace. Unfathomable. My favorite part of this testimony is how God keeps giving you what you want in a way you couldn’t and wouldn’t anticipate, and then how He keeps nurturing you WITHIN His grace. We cannot comprehend how wonderful He is — we just get to receive it and then believe it! I really appreciate your transparency Sam.
Samuel C. Williamson
You’re absolutely spot on: we cannot (and do not) comprehend how wonderful He is. And he blesses us in ways we know not.
Last week, in the midst of our problems, my wife said to me: “I think that where we are at–in the middle of these problems–is the perfect answer from God to our prayers. We may not feel it now, but someday we will.”
Thanks for your vulnerability, Sam. I’ve been there too many times. It seems that when I bury a hatchet, I at least put a marker above its grave so it keeps the power to grab my attention. Even if I don’t exhume it to start another fight, it’s there to torment me and remind me that I struggle with selfishness and forgiveness.
Samuel C. Williamson
It’s a wonderful (and scary) think to admit that we continue to “struggle with selfishness and forgiveness.”
Too often we fake it, pretending to do things right.
Honesty is better.