Relational Grace: Believing the Best

I (only) joke that the trip almost ended our marriage. Earlier this year we decided to drive our family to Orlando, Florida to visit my father-in-law. That's a 15 hour trip for us, with a three and a five-year-old who tend to alternate between squabbling and being the best of friends like a roller coaster. The drive was bad enough that we still shudder to think about it, but probably not bad enough to keep us from doing it again--kind of like childbirth.

In addition to the squabbling siblings, my husband and I have different "traveling styles." When I took a trip with a girlfriend a few years ago, we literally ended up in the wrong city because we were talking so much. My husband is a talker, but not a five-hour-straight kind of talker. And really, neither am I, but in my mind, if our relationship is great, we should have an abundance of things to talk about all the time (married people chuckle here).

My husband does all the driving, and he likes to do  just that. He's an excellent driver and never complains. It's not that he doesn't talk or check in with me, but his focus is the road, leading to a serious clash with my high expectations of a marathon talk-fest.

Over the hours of silence, peppered with breaking up the kids' fights and countless trips to less-than-sanitary gas station bathrooms, I stewed and fretted, and created an imaginary marital crises in my carsick head. It all finally gushed out in ugly crying and accusations of how he just didn't seem to care about me.

I see that moment a little more clearly now. Instead of believing the best of my husband (love does that--1 Corinthians 13:7). and accepting his different traveling style, I assumed that he really must not love me for not seeking out constant conversation.

I had him all figured out.

We all do this in many ways. A friend does A, and we assume that it must mean B. We get really good at making assumptions, which is much easier to do than actually talking to someone about what's going on.

Last post I wrote about how a lack of being real snuffs relationships. So here's another element to relational grace: choose to believe the best and withhold judgment or assumptions until you've heard someone's heart. 

There's an interesting little story illustrating this principle tucked into Joshua 22.  Israel had gotten wind that three of the tribes had built a built a huge altar near the Jordan. They immediately assumed the worst--apostasy--and sent out a delegation prepared for war. When they arrived, they found that what the tribes had built wasn't an altar at all but more like a monument that was a copy of the original altar to remind the people they belonged to God. War was called off, but their assumptions were nearly disastrous!

Proverbs 18:13 says, "If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame."

Our assumptions and jumps to judgment about people in our lives can be ruinous. I jumped to judgment about why my husband wasn't talking on our road trip instead of remembering that he's a really good man who was taking care of his family by driving us to Florida!

I must learn to get my story about someone from that person. It is my "folly and shame" to do otherwise. I've seen how just a word spoken in passing can skew my view of someone.

In a relationship of grace, I can hold off on my assumptions because I choose to believe the best in you. If there is a problem, sometimes I can simply let it go because it doesn't concern me or because it's unimportant. Or, if more helpful for our relationship and to you,  I can lovingly confront you (and first and only you--see Matthew 18) about it and do the work of seeking out your heart.

All this is possible because of Jesus. Because He has graced me greatly and forgiven all my sins, I can live out of a position of grace and approval, not need. I'm not striving to get all my needs met and protect myself. I can be about others in my life as Jesus was.


  1. Love it, Mary! Thanks for your honesty and the lesson on grace!


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