Sanctification At Work: The Woman You're Becoming
We'd already reconciled. I'd already asked his forgiveness. But as my husband sat there at our kitchen table that night, books open, face intent, thinking and writing and working, I felt a surge of sadness that I continue sinning against this man I love more than any other.
Ten minutes earlier I'd been so angry and impatient. Out of the anger had flowed a torrent of nasty, ugly words. Thank God for His Spirit at work in Christian marriage, prompting repentance and forgiveness. Still, as I watched him work, I felt overwhelming love and sadness both at once.
Knowing I was interrupting, but also knowing he wouldn't mind, I bent and put my arms around him, resting my head on his shoulder. "Justin, I don't ever want to speak to you that way again. I want to be free of this sin. Should I just vow to God, right here right now, that I'll never speak an unkind word to you again?"
He smiled, still typing. "No, probably not, hon. That might be a bit impulsive. A vow is serious and should involve some prayer and planning."
He's right. I think about it for a minute. "Besides," I add, "I know that real change is not going to come from an external decision, but from a change within, a change of character, a change of heart. Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks, and all that."
This time he stops writing and looks at me, thinking about what I've said. "Well, it's both though, right? It's true that our words reflect our heart, but it's also true that what we speak affects our character. It's an interchange. Our words are the overflow of our heart, but when we resist the temptation to say something sinful, that choice impacts our character."
Choosing What's Right
Our words reflect our heart; our heart is affected by the words we choose to speak. When we choose to sin, it reveals who we are. When we choose what's right, it affects who we become.
Part of the armor of God that we're told to put on in Ephesians 6 is the breastplate of righteousness, which in Ephesians means, in Christ's strength and by His grace, choosing to do what is right. In other words, one way we stand strong in the Lord is to actively choose to do what is right. When we choose not to sin we're strengthened to live righteously, and living righteously strengthens us to choose not to sin.
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis reflects on this interchange of character and choice: "I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before."
A Small Part of the Process
Sanctification is the complex process of growing in grace and becoming more like Christ. What I've written about here is only one small part of that process, but it's a part we sometimes overlook. When we choose to sin, it not only affects our relationship with God in the moment, it affects the person we are becoming. Conversely, and wonderfully, when God gives us the grace to choose what is right, there are again extending implications: we're being strengthened to live righteously; we're becoming a person who stands strong; we're changing who we're becoming.
As Christians, the law of kindness is to be on our tongue and we're to speak gentle words seasoned with grace. Particularly in moments of conflict, does that describe how we speak to those closest to us? If not, part of how God molds our character, changes our heart, and shapes us into the people we're meant to become is by enabling us to choose—one small, ordinary choice at a time—what is right.
By Elisha Galotti