Today, though, the King's voice was....is....seriously near. It's like I'm finally learning His intonation and rise and fall of His heartbeat well enough to hear Him speak to me moment by moment. It's what my heart has longed for - but it's something I had to learn. He's been speaking to me since my ears and heart were created, I just had to learn His voice. I wish I would have learned it this well a long time ago. And I still have a long way to go in my heart/ear-training.
Chris and I sat with dear friends this afternoon. They are fairly new to Jacob's Well Church and have asked us for pre-marriage counseling. Chris and I especially love this part of our job in ministry, because we get to pour out wisdom, grace and love onto another couple, that our mentors poured into us at that stage of our engagement. A good dynamic marriage is a big deal (and super rare), and couples with those kinds of marriages know that it takes a lot of effort, preparation, understanding, grace, and a butt ton of forgiveness. We committed to work for a dynamic marriage from the very beginning, and long to help others toward the same hope and goal.
One of the things that our pre-marriage counselor, Gary Waller, asked Chris and I to do was one of the most healing things for us. By the way - you know you have a great pre-marriage counselor when they stay committed to walking with you past your wedding day - to call on, to ask help from, to check in with, and so forth. We still meet with Gary more than once a year to see how Chris and I can continue to dig in and grow together in our covenant to each other. We learned that from him as well - to stay connected to those we counsel - because even marriage takes a village.
Gary asked us to do what Chris and I would deem The Forgiveness Exercise. As he described it, I actually remember thinking, "Eh, that's not too terribly difficult." Boy, was I completely wrong! What he asked us to do was to find a time where Chris and I could be alone somewhere quiet without people around. We were to sit knees to knees, facing each other, and reveal our broken baggage and dark sin from past relationships and even from our current happening relationship. We were to speak of the sin to the other, and then ask forgiveness for it. Then the other would do the same. We would follow that in prayer, individually and out loud, asking the Grace Giver to hear our repentant hearts and forgive us, while asking Him to help us walk forward in a new way, with new eyes and a new heart.
Goodness. My heart was splayed out, knot in my throat, swollen eyes from impending tears, broken and ashamed in front of Chris. I had displayed and pushed into the light the darkest parts of who I was and what I held as secrets or shame, and asked for forgiveness from my fiancé for all of it. And then I did the same to the Creator and King of my heart. Now don't go all weird on me - this was actually a beautiful exercise. It wasn't meant to shame the other while giving credence and new voice to past and current sins. Instead, it was meant to silence that voice. To tell it, "No more". Forgiveness lives here. Where forgiveness lives, transformation happens.
Then it was Chris' turn. Something deep began happening as we went through The Forgiveness Exercise. I started to heal, to transform. The deep down, "I didn't know that part was broken", kind of healing. Things that had been shadowed, rattled and undone in me, squeamish and bleeding, were bandaged and cleaned out - forced into the Light. They were wrapped with clean gauze for the first time and Kingdom ointment was poured over them. It wasn't a toxin release from crying. No this was a heart cleanse. A God-sees-me-and-loves-me-still-yet moment, and so does Chris.
Don't get me wrong, that was not an overnight fix. Chris and I spent a lot of time learning to forgive each other beyond that day, and The Forgiveness Exercise was only the beginning. We hope this couple that we spoke with today will use the exercise as often as Chris and I do - forgiveness is the second most needed commodity in marriage. Right under the number one need for God to be at the center of the relationship.
The King's voice was so precious to me today. He reminded me that when I listen in to His heart for me, forgiveness is always written in between the lines. It lives in His words. He speaks it over me every time we talk. And if I continue to listen, then when I speak, He can use the same language spoken over me, to come out of my mouth to those I speak to. Because, forgiveness is not my native language. But I know where Forgiveness lives.