I said I would continue my testimony and surprise! I'm actually doing it. When I tell people that legalism destroys marriage and was seriously affecting ours, I'm usually asked what I mean. In other words, what exactly happened as a result of living under the law instead of in the freedom of the Spirit. I think it's a good question and I'm hoping that writing here will help me have a better answer next time this question comes up.
I think one of the main problem we had was a performance mentality. We had very specific rules about what a husband should do and what a wife should do. If Aaron didn't live up to this standard, there was very little mercy from me. This worked both ways. We were also judging ourselves constantly as failures as well. I suppose this came from the subtle understanding that the main purpose of being in relationship with God was to have sin revealed so we could work harder. Just as this damages intimacy with God, it damaged intimacy in our marriage when we saw our primary role in each other's lives as one of accountability and confronting sin. My performance as a child of God was constantly falling short, and so was my performance as a wife. I often said things like 'it would be better for you if I died so you could marry a godlier wife and mother for your children'. Aaron spent his fair share of time despairing of ever being a godly husband and father. I think it's obvious that in an environment like this love is not going to grow--love becomes almost irrelevant.
Another issue connected to this performance mindset is fear of man. I've noticed there is often a connection in Scripture between legalism and seeking approval of men (see Gal. 1:10,2:12). With fear of man coming into play, our failures become even heavier burdens. Not only were we concerned with how we failed, but we were very concerned with how it would all look to others. We were also constantly thinking we would be pulled from ministry because of our failure to conform. We often critiqued each other after spending time with people whose opinions mattered to us. We piled on more guilt and fear. Again, not exactly loving...
Next I would have to say anger and bitterness came into play. The anger we're still dealing with. This anger could come at any time for any reason because inside we were angry most of the time. Angry with ourselves for sinning, angry with each other for sinning, angry with God for putting such impossible law on us. Of course, he did the exact opposite, sending his own Son to give his life for our freedom from the law, sin, death, and curse. But we lost sight of this. Oh we knew the gospel very well and loved it, but we didn't think it had any power to bring true freedom here on earth while in the flesh. We thought the Holy Spirit was only there to convict us of sin, not to fill us with the same power that raised Christ from the dead. I'm saying we thought these things but of course we were completely unaware of the lies we were believing. That's what gave them such power over us and made them able to coax us into giving up our freedom and joy in exchange for a yoke of slavery.
I would have to say that the worst part of all this was just feeling constantly overwhelmed. We were always in survival mode, just trying to make it one more day. I'm not normally a yeller or one to say really mean things to my husband, but over the past year I can remember more than one instance of me screaming (and I mean at the top of my lungs) I hate you I hate you!!! I was so overwhelmed with my life that I couldn't handle any more interrogation and I snapped. I believe every family has at least one person who will eventually break under this kind of pressure (husband, wife, or child)-- the weight of the law and the condemnation it brings is terrible. The law is meant to bring us to Christ to become free, so when as believers we go back to the law there is no longer any hope left for us. If Christ can't free us, nothing can! This is the message of Galatians. We must never never go back to law, and if we do we should come running back to grace as soon as we see what we've done.
As a result of God revealing truth to me and just loving me, I'm doing much better now. I think I've turned an important corner and I'm slowly experiencing far more joy, peace, and faith. As a matter of fact, I'm not spending all my time studying about legalism anymore, but have really been excited to learn more about healing and the Kingdom. There's a whole world I've never really explored and God is looking bigger, better, yet closer to me all the time. Oh, and our marriage is much happier as well. We are getting to know each other again and encouraging each other to be who God is calling us to be. In fact we're off to Williamsburg, VA tomorrow morning for a few nights away ALONE! It's about a 5 hour drive so bring on the sermons...definitely Andrew's recent one on healing.