If you’re hurting, the last thing you want to think about is giving the person who hurt you a second chance. But what if you were on the other side and you were the one who caused the injury? Would you want the person you hurt to think about forgiving you and giving you another opportunity to be in relationship with them?
I am a strong believer in second, third, and fourth chances. No matter how many times you have to regroup, whether this be in a relationship, project, or goal of any kind, I believe in starting over. After all, Jesus provides this for us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We fail over and over again, causing others and Jesus great hurt. Just as the father embraces his child upon his return in the story of the prodigal son, God welcomes us back with open arms. God’s forgiveness is unfathomable. In this great sacrament, God’s love and forgiveness is pure grace, an encouragement to keep going, to keep hoping and trusting in God’s promises and providence. The way of Jesus is the better way. To live the Great Commandments is the only Christian way. God always extends forgiveness and reconciliation through this Sacrament of Divine Mercy.
In Matthew 18:21-22 Saint Peter asks Jesus: “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” If God himself allows for second, third, and forth chances. Maybe we can consider believing in second chances. Better yet, we can extend second chances and forgiveness, over and over again.
Here’s the difficulty in this.
While God is love itself, we as humans are not. We were made to love and be loved, but because of the fall, we have to really work at this. Offering second chances can be difficult to do. It’s not always our natural disposition, especially in the midst of great heartache, sadness, or betrayal. If you’ve discovered your husband has viewed pornography, forgiveness may be the last thing on your mind. If you discovered your wife having an affair, your first thoughts probably wouldn’t be about welcoming her with open arms and having a conversation about how to move forward. These things take time. Sometimes there isn’t enough time. Sometimes there isn’t enough energy to try again and couples go their own ways having never resolved or healed from what happened. They take the hurt, distrust, and wounds with them into their next relationships.
If you are at a crossroads in your marriage, discerning to stay and reconcile or to leave, I want to encourage you to offer another chance. (This blog is not intended to address issues of abuse. If abuse is taking place in your marriage, please contact law enforcement and a therapist to discuss the best possible plan for you.) Work as hard as you can to reconcile your relationship and be open to the grace that flows from the sacraments, including the Sacrament of Marriage. It may be that in ten or twenty years, you will be thankful you gave your marriage a second chance.
Motivation to forgive and to move forward may be lacking in your relationship. If this is the case, I want you to take time for reflection on these four points before you decide what’s next.
- Reflect on the Meaning of Love – What do you believe motivates God to be so generous? Love. After all, God is love itself. He wills our good. He constantly thinks about what is best for us. And as we know from the life of Christ, love is not devoid of suffering. We have to work at it though, having at the beginning faith in the new life of the resurrection. If love is “willing the good of the other,” while also caring for oneself, how can you live love in your marriage or relationship today?
- Consider the Vocation of Marriage. In a sense, every relationship can assist the individuals involved in making their way to heaven. We are to assist one another in growing in holiness–to align our will with God’s will. Marriage is a more intimate and form of this Christian vocation. By the marriage covenant in its great permanence, the man and woman are entrusted with the task of getting the spouse to heaven. To do this, the marriage must be united to God himself. The ambitions, desires, and inclinations of the spouses must be united to that of Christ. In your marriage, how do you help each other to heaven? What does this mean to you and your priorities and choices?
- Entrust Everything to God – Today you are to say “Yes” to God in whatever he asks of you. Take time to listen and talk with God, as well as cry and laugh with him. Use this as a time to offer God your spouse and/or the person you are struggling with the most, including the betrayal you have experienced from an affair or ongoing usage of pornography. Saint Gianna Molla said: “As to the past, let us entrust it to God’s mercy, the future to Divine Providence. Our task is to live holy the present moment.”
- Assess the Situation – Take time to assess the current state of your marriage. Where are you and your spouse emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally? How is pornography impacting these four categories? How is it impacting your marriage? With the answers to these questions in mind, do you know how to move forward? Consider learning about healthy boundaries and what they should look like when your relationship is impacted by pornography. The free Covenant Eyes ebook Porn and Your Husband contains a helpful recovery plan to guide you in the days ahead.
Forgiveness and healing takes time. Remember, if God himself allows for second, third, and forth chances, it’s possible you may be able to forgive and offer another chance as well.
Copyright 2018 Amanda Zurface
About the author: Amanda Zurface is the Catholic Campaign Coordinator for Covenant Eyes. Amanda holds a License and MA in Canon Law and a BA in Catholic Theology and Social Justice. Amanda has served in various roles within the Catholic Church both in the United States and internationally. She is the co-author of Equipped: Smart Catholic Parenting in a Sexualized Culture and Transformed by Beauty. She resides in Zanesville, Ohio, where she also serves as the Director of Faith Formation at Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church.