The rays of the morning sun streamed through the kitchen window of our tiny home. I sat on the table facing it, my head buried in my computer, trying very hard to focus on the tasks I had to complete before any of my children would start jumping off their double-decker bed and pipe “Good morning, mom!”
Behind me, I could hear my husband reach for the house keys. He muttered a quick goodbye, kissed my head before heading out the door. I kept my eyes on my monitor, intentionally ignoring him.
We had a spat the night before which started out as a petty thing that turned into a full-blown argument. I was angry at my husband, ashamed of my reaction and discouraged about my marriage.
Knowing that our 12th year anniversary was coming up made me feel worse. We’ve been making plans for months, but at that point, I just felt like throwing them all out the window and locking myself up in a hotel somewhere where I could self-loathe and gripe all I could.
I was angry, but I was also sad. We’ve been at each other’s throats over the past few months, triggered by the silliest of reasons, such as food choices or misplaced items in the house; little, seemingly insignificant issues that escalate to hurtful words hurled at each other.
Irked by his gall to argue back, I would bring back an unresolved issue in our past if only to hit him where it hurts. He would clam up, which made me feel doubly worse.
How did we come to this? I wondered.
I told a friend that I keep getting flashbacks of our first years into the marriage. Sure, we could barely make ends meet, but we laughed a lot back then and appreciated the simplest things in life.
I remembered how my husband insisted that we go to Wendy’s for our first year anniversary despite having very little cash, and getting us a macaroni salad to share and a couple of sodas. I didn’t mind then that it was all he could afford. We enjoyed every piece of macaroni in that bowl as we talked, and kissed, and wrapped our arms around each other. It was such a beautiful time in our lives. We were happy.
My friend asked me what it was that changed, and it took me several minutes before I could answer. “Me. I’ve changed.”
Love does not keep a record of wrongs, the Bible says. It’s so easy to say that we will forgive our spouse for whatever it is they do -- until life happens and you start going through tough times together. Then you realize it does not matter how big or small his mistakes are. It is just easier to be unforgiving. It’s human nature.
Perhaps it is why the Bible says we should renew our minds, but warns us against the deceitfulness of our hearts. The pains in life can sometimes consume you and cause your heart to harden towards the people you love. I need to renew my mind in order for me to ford through my emotions.
My husband is not a perfect man, but he has not given up on me. And on good days, I see the hard work he puts into our marriage to make it work. On other days, I would only see the things that I had done and demand that he reciprocates for every single one of them. “I deserve it!” I would cry out. “I deserve more than this!”
I realize that the problem isn’t really what he had done or said in the past. The problem was that I have made our marriage all about “me.”
I’m not saying that my husband has nothing to work on, but marriage isn’t about me changing him. I don’t have the power to change my husband anyway even if I wanted to. That’s not my job; it’s God’s.
I started out on a good foot in this marriage. Given my strong personality, I was willing to take my place as my husband’s helpmate, to honor him, to respect him, to love him with an unconditional love. But the hardships we had gone through together had shaken me and had caused me to allow fear to creep into my life.
Fear does a lot of things to you. It makes you want to take control. It makes you want to protect yourself. It fools you into thinking you can only depend on yourself and no one else.
When we choose to forgive, we let go of our fears and trust in that perfect love that drives fear out. We let go of our control and surrender our marriage to God.
When we choose to forgive, we choose to believe that God can change hearts -- your husband’s and yours. And that means submitting to the process and patiently waiting as you continue to walk in the ways God has set for you as your husband’s spouse.
Choosing to forgive takes away your excuse to walk away from it all. In marriage, real forgiveness is not only retracting what has been said and done, but taking up your cross once again and following Jesus.
Time and time again, I may feel that my husband does not deserve my forgiveness, nor do I deserve his. But I have learned that the basis of our love should not be each other, but Jesus, who forgave us and gave his life for us even when we don’t deserve it.
That same evening, my husband and I sat down to talk about our issues. Some, we were able to resolve; others need more time. He came to me to say he was sorry and I forgave him, and I sought his forgiveness as well. It is when I am reminded of God’s unconditional love that my heart becomes willing to forgive and make a go at our relationship all over again.