Have you ever been to a show at a theme park that had a warning for the first few rows of seats? “Caution: If you sit here, you may get wet.”
Now you have a decision to make. You really want to sit up close, because you’re excited and you know the front row will give you the best place to see all the action. However, you’re not so sure you want to be soaked afterwards. Or maybe, for you, getting soaked is part of the fun and you’d be disappointed to walk away dry. So up to the front row you go. Then the show starts.
The first few special effects sprinkle you with water, just enough to be fun. Then you may get hit with a more direct stream, and now your shoulder or one leg is really wet, which is still pretty funny. But right before the end of the show, the hidden buckets you never even noticed overturn and suddenly you are drenched. You’re kind of in shock, but still laughing as you exit. But it slowly becomes a little less funny as you now walk around the park in wet clothes. It’s not very comfortable, to say the least. The sun has gone behind the clouds, and you are not only soaking wet, but you’re now freezing as well. You have nowhere to put your phone, the money in your pocket is soggy and in danger of tearing, and your socks are squishing with every step and now rubbing blisters on your feet. Maybe that front row seat was a bad idea, after all. By the end of the day, though, the sun finally came back out, you dried off, forgot the unpleasantness, and the next time you come to the park and go to that show, you run right back up to that front row seat. Because after all, it was the best seat for the show.
It struck me the other day that marriage is like having a seat in the caution zone for the show of your spouse’s life.
We approach marriage with great excitement, thrilled that we get a front row seat to watch this person’s life unfold. We see the caution signs, people tell us that marriage isn’t all fun and games, there will be trouble and hard times in the show in addition to all the hearts and romance and excitement. It’s not that we don’t listen, it’s just that we’re sure we can handle any water that comes our way. And after all, we know we’re signing on for worse as well as better, and–with our naive, untried love–we’re actually kind of excited for the “worse.” Bring it on. Our love can handle it.
Then, the water sprays our way. See, having a front row seat to our husband’s life does give us the best view of the show, but it also means that the effects of his sin are going to spray all over us. Sometimes, it’s just a little sprinkle, sometimes it’s a more direct spray, and sometimes, it’s like a bucket poured directly over top of us, taking our breath away. And suddenly, the show is not as fun as we thought it would be. Now we see what all the cautions meant, the ones that we naively laughed off, sure that we could handle anything.
I will be the first person to tell anyone that I married a great guy. I’ve written post after post about him and about our marriage, and I know that God has richly blessed me with him and with the type of marriage I wish everyone could enjoy. But lest all those posts leave you thinking that everything is always perfect and rosy at our house, let me also tell you this: I married a sinner. And so did he. And there have been times when the effects of his sin doused me so thoroughly that I was left wondering if the front row seat to his life was really worth it, just as my sin has affected him.
Because I live in such close proximity with this man, almost every one of his sins has some sort of effect on my life, even if it’s not a sin directly against me. Just like at the amusement park show, when one character dumps a bucket of water over another character’s head and the front row viewers feel a few drops, there are effects that I feel even when his sin has nothing to do with me. But these times are relatively easy to work through, especially when I remember that he is also sitting in the caution zone at the show of my life and my sin is spraying on him, too. Grace needs to flow both ways, and we learn to live in harmony as two sinners trying to love as Jesus loves.
But sometimes, his sin is directly against me, the bucket is dumped directly over my head, and I’m left soaked, shocked, and temporarily unable to breathe. Those are the times when I think, “I thought this front-row seat was supposed to be fun! But now I’m just all wet, and uncomfortable, and cold.”
Dealing with the effects of someone else’s sin is never easy. This is even more pronounced when dealing with the effects of your husband’s sin, simply because you are indeed, right up front and in the danger zone. The closer you are to the show, the more it impacts you. So while he’s on the stage of his own life, fighting his sin, engaged in the battle, you are in the front row dodging the friendly fire and never emerging completely unscathed.
So, as I’ve experienced this, here is what God is teaching me:
The front row seat to my husband’s life is indeed in the danger zone, but it is still the best seat in the house.
Because not only do I get the closest and ugliest view of his sin, I also get the closest and most glorious view of his victories in Christ, and of the work Christ is doing in him. Because my husband has been saved by grace, that grace continues to work in him and promises to complete the work. Yes, I’m close in to the battle and get injured in the fray, but that doesn’t stop me from seeing that the victory is certain. I watch him fall, but I also get to see the Lord pick him back up. I see him when he is almost drowning in the mire, but I also see him as he’s being rescued. I see him when he sins, but I also see him when he repents. No matter how great the sin, the victory is always greater.
The most beautiful part is this: while it’s undeniably true that his sin splashes off the stage and onto me in the front row, it’s also true that his victory in Christ does the same thing. I get to enjoy the fruits of his progressive sanctification. When he’s walking in the strength of his own flesh, yes, I will inevitably get hurt. But when he’s walking in the strength of the Spirit, I will inevitably be blessed. And because of the promises of Christ for those who are in Him, as God keeps completing the good work He began in my husband, the times of blessing progressively outshadow the times of hurt. And the crazy thing is, God uses the splashover of my husband’s sin in my own life, in the work He’s doing to make me more like Christ. Sometimes his sin points out my own sin. Sometimes, it forces me to put on the fruits of the Spirit. Always, it teaches me to practice grace and forgiveness. This is how, despite the warnings and actually having experienced the truth they speak, I wake up every day and decide to keep my front row seat. Because I’ve learned through experience now that regardless of what comes flying toward me as the show on the stage plays out, this is still the best seat in the house, and the greatness of the show is well worth the dangers of the front row seat.
Ladies, you may be married to the most godly man on earth, but he’s still going to sin and because of your front row seat, you are going to feel the effects of his sin like no one else in his life. But if he is in Christ, you have a promise that the show will be worth it, because the show will end in victory for all who are in Christ. And if your husband does not know the Lord, you can rest assured that even if his show never changes, your own victory is assured, and his sin will work in your life to make you more like Christ even if his own show does not end in victory. And you keep praying that he will find grace and that you will get a front row seat to the transformation you always hoped to see.
Before our wedding, we had seen the warning signs–“Beware: you will get wet if you sit in the front row.” But we had a naive, giddy, excited confidence that we could survive anything the show threw at us, so we ran to the front row anyway. Now, every day I get to choose if I want to keep my front row seat. Now I know from experience what might come my way. I’m not naive anymore. I’m not giddy. It’s much more thought-out, much more sober. I’m not always running and skipping to my seat but sometimes walking slowly, weighed down by what the show threw at me yesterday. But my choice never wavers.
Every day I make the choice to walk back to that front row seat, sit down, and watch the show of my husband’s life from my seat in the most dangerous, vulnerable row in the audience. Because the show is worth the risk.
And I know how the show ends up: with his victory and mine, through the victory of Christ. And that’s a show that I’m excited to watch, no matter what it throws my way.