Saving My Marriage
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. Genesis 49:10
Addicted to drugs, I once hid my secret life from my wife and when it tore our lives apart, her trust in me was appropriately shattered. With our marriage an absolute mess, I went off to treatment, using my time away to seek God who began to transform me. When I got home, I felt that I’d found a lasting recovery, and I wanted my wife to see that too. Having experienced 15 years of empty apologies, meaningless promises, and relapses though, she remained unimpressed. She still felt betrayed, publicly shamed, and hurt. I said I was sorry, but I didn’t promise that I’d never relapse. She’d heard that before and she wouldn’t have believed it. If she was ever going to trust me again, she needed to see radical, permanent change.
So, I set out to live a different life. I got up early every morning to read, pray, meditate, and point my life at God. I started volunteering at jail. I went to recovery meetings. I threw myself into recovery, which was the right thing to do, but my wife remained appropriately skeptical. Based on my previous behavior, she believed I’d eventually return to my self-centered life within a few months. It took nearly two years of watching me seek a profoundly different life before she began to believe. Genuine repentance – honestly turning my life around – was the only thing that could save our marriage.
It was repentance, I think, that made the difference in the relationship between Judah and his father Jacob in today’s passage. In the story, Jacob was on his deathbed when he gathered his children for a final blessing or curse. He chastised his first three sons for sins committed years earlier. When he got to Judah however, he blessed him. Had Judah lived a perfect life? Hardly. Judah once slept with his daughter-in-law, mistaking her for a prostitute, and then, when he discovered she was pregnant, threatened to put her to death. When she revealed he was the father though, he confessed – She is more righteous than I (Genesis 38:26). It was Judah’s repentance that changed the course of his life, as he received a blessing instead of a curse from his father. It was from the descendants of Judah after all, that Jesus eventually was born.
Repentance is more than saying, I’m sorry. Those who’ve heard our empty apologies don’t need to hear that we feel bad again. They need to see radical change for the rest of our lives. If we’ve hurt our loved ones with our repetitive toxic behavior, then we must do whatever it takes to permanently turn our lives around. Genuine repentance is the only thing that can change our future and repair our relationships with those we love the most.