Mr. and Mrs. X have been married a long time, but are only just now learning the mechanics of reconciliation: honest confession, restitution, forgiveness and peace. Before, their conflict management style was avoidance until things cooled down, and pretending the conflict or sin never happened, without ever confessing it and seeking forgiveness. They are making progress, but undergo times of serious, major, derailment.
Mr. X has been a colossal abdicator for decades, but is seriously repenting over the past two months. Mrs. X is prone to fantastic Vesuvian displays of anger—where any attempt on Mr. X’s part to talk it through, confess sin, deal gently is met with only greater anger. During these times—sometimes as long as a week at a crack—Mrs. X threatens to leave, calls Mr. X untold hurtful names, and is impossible to be near. Mrs. X, almost in a Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde sense, does untold damage when she is angry. Also, any attempt on Mr. X’s part to confront on sin usually is met with defensiveness, and the potential of another Vesuvius.
Inevitably, after a while she cools down, and sincerely asks for forgiveness—and it is readily granted. However, there are a lot of (metaphorically speaking) broken dishes, furniture, and other damage. Besides asking for forgiveness, what are some of the means that Mrs. X can make restitution to heal and fix what she has broken? I am thinking she needs to see the damage she is wreaking around her—but besides confession and forgiveness, how do you make restitution in this circumstance? What can she do to make it right?
Thanks in advance,
I have a few suggestions that might help your situation. First, Mr. X needs to be encouraged to take the lead in the family transition. It is important that he stop abdicating his responsibilities in the family, but this does not mean that he gets to rule with an iron hand. That kind of ungodly leadership is the first thing that pops into people’s minds when they think of leadership. But what is called for is biblical and godly leadership. Christ like leadership is characterized by tender and humble servanthood. It is filled with compassion and a desire to make his wife the most beautiful woman on the earth by serving her, not by driving her. His new servanthood will build her confidence in his love for her and it will go a long ways in giving her the freedom to be who God wants her to be in respecting him. She probably needs to know that he isn’t going to leave her (check to see what her fears are about) or that he is going to be the man of God he is trying to be. If she blows up at him, he needs to have a plan to respond in a gentle, loving, and kind way.
Mrs. X seems to be very interested in “fixing” the situation with her husband. However, she might be afraid of what trusting her husband would mean for their relationship and for her as a person. She is probably used to things the way they are and is afraid to let things change. It is difficult to know how things on the other side of change will look after the dust settles. Change is hard. The solution is to help her know God and how he has fulfilled his promises to his people for millennia. She needs to know that because she is a child of God, God will uphold her as well. Faith is trust in a faithful God and so Mrs. X needs to see God’s faithfulness to his people over time. When she trusts God for her future, she can submit to her husband and work on respecting him. I suggest taking her to (could be homework) many passages where she can see God acting in other people’s similar situations and let her identify with those folks (that cloud of witnesses thing—Heb. 11 & 12).
It sounds like you are already doing this with them, but I’ll say it again. I also suggest taking them to passages that show how great God’s forgiveness of their sin has been. They need to know the story in Matthew 18, about the servant who is thrown into jail for not forgiving his brother, in their bones. What does it mean that God doesn’t remember their sins anymore (Heb. 10:15-19)? What would imitating him look like (Eph. 5:1)? They know how horrible their sin has been, at least they know what the other’s sin has done to them, now they need to know what a great miracle God can do in their lives when he cleanses them from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9). They need to see that “he who has been forgiven much loves much” (Lk. 7:47).
Something you might think about doing with Mr. and Mrs. X is to observe them interacting with one another about a specific problem. It might be that Mr. X isn’t being all that sensitive when he confronts his wife and is actually pushing all Mrs. X’s fear buttons. You might need to coach them in how to talk about sin, to confess, and what repentance means.
You might give them homework that involves describing (journaling) an event of outbursts, ask them to tell what they wanted to accomplish by their behavior at every step in event and why, ask them what the actual outcome was, and help them think through ways they might act differently in the future to produce a Biblical outcome.
I hope this helps,