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…the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Psalm 84:11b
The New King James Version states that The LORD will give grace and glory. Grace and glory, favor and honor. These are our gifts from our gracious host, our Heavenly Father.
In like manner, the recent Tuesday Charlyne Cares devotional by Bob Steinkamp mentions the parable about the Prodigal Son and the welcome the father gave his prodigal son upon his return home (see Luke 15:11-31). Bob goes on to remind us that when our own prodigal spouse or family member (for whom we are standing) comes home, what kind of welcome will greet them?
In marriage reconciliation (and other reconciliations), both parties need to change. It is not just the prodigal who needs to change, it is also the spouse and family waiting at home who also must change. Reconciliation is a two sided activity. Both parties (the prodigal and the stander) must change. The conditions that drove one’s prodigal into the “far country” must change, both in the home environment as well as in the prodigal’s life. The “gift of welcome” is an essential step in the reconciliation process.
As a stander, I pray that my prodigal wife is making the necessary changes in her life, changes to things that often pushed my buttons and/or set up conditions in our marriage relationship that necessitated her to want out. Such changes are a work that only God can orchestrate on the other side of the mountain (the mountain of the circumstances of our marriage breakdown). It requires that I, the standing spouse, step back and “let go and let God”. Allowing God to orchestrate the needed changes in my wife was very difficult, but it so essential if there is to be any success in our reconciliation. This I resisted for months until I finally realized I could not change my wife, only God can. This change requires a “Godly power”, the intervention of our Creator. Working where I cannot tread and in the spiritual realm, God can change even the most reluctant and stubborn spouse into a person receptive to reconciliation.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
Receptive to reconciliation? That is a mouthful. But God knows how. What about the other half of this equation, the standing spouse? Marriage is a partnership, a relationship, a blending of two minds, hearts and personalities into one. Marriage is a gift from God to mankind. And yes, oh how we have messed it up!
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matthew 19:4-6
“I hate divorce,” says the God of Israel. God-of-the-Angel-Armies says, “I hate the violent dismembering of the ‘one flesh’ of marriage.” So watch yourselves. Don’t let your guard down. Don’t cheat. Malachi 2:16 (MSG)
As a stander, working with God, I too CAN and MUST change. It will be hard, but I can change under my Heavenly Father’s guidance. Trying without His guidance, a meaningful change in me would be very, very difficult, if not impossible. God wants to make right what we humans have “fouled up”. While we frequently don’t see any or only a few of the changes occurring in our spouse, we do recognize those changes that are taking place in our own lives. God sets up the framework in which our lives can change, but it takes our commitment to change and a lot of hard work. It requires a giant amount of humility and a willingness to extend unconditional love for and to our prodigal spouse.
Remembering the actions of the Prodigal Son’s father, we standers need to be ready and willing to extend an unconditional “welcome” to our own returning prodigal. As our prodigals return home, they do not know what to expect. Will there be any noticeable changes? Will the icy atmosphere, the tension, the anger, the abuse, you name it, still be there either overtly or covertly? Or like the returning Prodigal Son found in Christ’s parable, will our prodigal find a gracious host, a thankful and forgiving spouse displaying Christ’s love?
As I read through both of these devotionals, I realized there are still some hurts and tattered edges in my own marriage relationship that still need repair. Ultimately, I must forgive and forget. Remember this, our prodigal spouse may be “testing the waters” to see for themselves that the home atmosphere will be safe and their fears about unchanged conditions are for naught. What will my spouse find at my house? What will your spouse find at yours? Is the “welcome mat” out and prominent for all to see? I hope so. I imagine God also hopes so!
Extend to your prodigal the “gift of welcome”.
Standing firm until parted by death,
Ben in Texas
Unless otherwise noted, scripture quoted are from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.