Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.
-Malachi 2:13-14, NIV
-The Broken Vase Parable-
Mother was very proud of her rare vase.
It was beautiful. A true work of art. Blue swirl patterns against a white background all surrounding an eloquent, elongated body building to a dainty opening at the top. The long-dead artist knew his craft and had clearly designed this special piece to command the attention of all in its presence.
And the vase held sentimental value. Grandpa had been given this vase in gratitude for his service in helping a country rebuild after the war. The gift held special memories of families grandpa had helped protect and had cared for during especially vulnerable times. So, its presence in the family home was both a reminder of grandpa as well as a reminder of all those people that he so honorably served years ago.
Mom loved this vase.
So, you can about imagine the horror and heart-break when mom came home one day to discover her precious, one-of-a-kind shattered into a thousand pieces laying all about the tiled living room floor.
One look into the guilty eyes of her eight-year old son, Timmy, and she knew who broke the vase. Timmy told her that he had been rough-housing with one of his friends in the living room and had accidentally kicked the vase sending it flying into the air, which then crashed to the ground shattering into many pieces.
Yes, Timmy said that he knew he was not suppose to be rough-housing in that room. And he knew how much mother loved grandpa’s vase. He just hope mother would forgive him.
Of course, mother did forgive him. But that did not make her less sad about losing the precious vase. Nor did it bring it back. Glue can only go so far.
A marriage is like grandpa’s vase.
It is a precious, one-of-a-kind, work of art. Plus, it needs special care and protection. Marriages can be broken by selfish, sinful, carelessness.
Like grandpa’s vase in this parable, once broken by adultery the marriage is never the same.
Glue only goes so far.
Like Mother forgiving Timmy for breaking the vase, true forgiveness does not take away her sorrow over the real loss of the vase–i.e. the once innocent marriage–or mean the vase is magically reconstituted. Her sorrow over the lost vase does not mean she fails to forgive Timmy. It simply means she cared about what was destroyed and lost. She grieves.
There are consequences for committing adultery just like breaking the precious vase. Those consequences do not just automatically get erased just because the cheater is forgiven.
The vase is still broken.
Analogously, faithful spouses ought to be allowed to grieve that which is truly lost without slanderous charges of unforgiveness leveled at them.
They can both forgive the cheating spouse and feel sorrow over what the cheating spouse destroyed by his/her sin.
Finally, it does not make the faithful spouse unforgiving if he/she chooses to acknowledge the reality that the “vase” is truly broken beyond repair by adultery. God says they can acknowledge that and walk away via divorce without shame (e.g. Jer. 3:8, Mt. 19:9). It does not mean the faithful spouse is unforgiving any more than Mother acknowledging the fact that the vase is broken beyond repair makes her unforgiving to Timmy. Sometimes that is just the sad reality.