It was the tail-end of an awfully hard week. A week where it felt like we were entirely out of sync and as if we weren’t even speaking the same language. I found solace in the form of a book and in the fact that I knew this time in our lives and the different challenges that filled it were temporary. I had heard about this particular book for some time, but being “late to the party” as usual, I hadn’t taken the time to read it. But this time was different. I remembered words I had written in various blog posts — things to the effect of watering your grass and one of my favorites, the car maintenance analogy. It goes: If you don’t take care of your car, it stops running, so why is it that we expect our marriages to last and uphold and even get better when we are not willing to put in the work? For me, maintenance includes doing things that can help me be better. That can help me love my husband better.
The book I read, titled The Five Love Languages, was about just that: love languages. A simple concept, and yet as I read through the chapters, lights went on. The biggest light went on when I read about forgiveness. I’ve shared before that one of the things I love most about my husband is his forgiving heart. And I desire to help my children realize the importance and power of forgiveness. Yet I realized something. I continue to struggle with letting things go. I remember all of the wonderful, beautiful things my husband has done, and yet I still hold on to our rough patches — the breakups, the time we spent apart as opposed to all of the time we have spent together. I hold on to the times when I felt like he didn’t take “my side” in a disagreement with a loved one or mutual friend. But I don’t just do that with him. It’s almost as if I have collected every hurt I have experienced in life tucking it away rather than burying it and leaving it to rest.
But how can I teach my children the importance of forgiveness if I am still carrying hurt (and why am I carrying it)? We’re happily married, more in love and devoted than ever. And yet, a sarcastic comment from a friend, or a song or disagreement can send me plummeting into the past. Remembering way back when and feeling a little bothered by it. As I stumbled upon these words:
“I am amazed by how many individuals mess up every new day with yesterday. They insist on bringing into today the failures of yesterday and in so doing, they pollute a potentially wonderful day.”
With each snarky comment, joke or eye roll, I risk ruining the now, and the now is the very thing I dreamed of when I first met my husband — even before I met him. I have everything I ever truly dreamed of. Him and our two daughters. As I’ve written before, they are the substance of my childhood prayers. I wanted to get married and have a family. By not fully letting go of the past, I was inhibiting my ability to fully enjoy the present.
“We cannot erase the past, but we can accept it as history. We can choose to live today free from the failures of yesterday. Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a commitment. It is a choice to show mercy, not to hold the offense up against the offender. Forgiveness is an expression of love. “I love you. I care about you, and I choose to forgive you. Even though my feelings of hurt may linger, I will not allow what has happened to come between us.”
There are so many instances when we say we forgive. And I don’t just mean deal breakers. I mean little things like when our spouse forgets we had plans and ends up making another commitment, or when they said they’d be home early but they got held up at work. I’m talking about the small things. The things that linger, leaving a residue in your relationships over time and spreading — all because while we accepted an apology, we didn’t let go. We didn’t forgive. We polluted our today.
I realized that I needed to re-examine the way I looked at forgiveness. As 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
As the book says, forgiveness isn’t a feeling. It’s a commitment. It is a commitment to not hold your spouse’s shortcomings over their head. A commitment to show them the same grace we show our babies, colleagues and friends when they hurt our feelings something they (if you’ve got a keeper) didn’t even mean to do in the first place.
When we say we forgive, we must mean it. We must live it. This entire time, I thought I was forgiving. Not just my husband — the beautiful, kindhearted man I married. The man who never holds my shortcomings or mistakes over my head. But also friends, family and all of the people I loved who had somehow hurt me in one way or another. My declarations that I was “over it” were just that. Declarations, but they were far from my reality.
I finished the book in one night, and I learned a lot more about love. I’m happy to say that I’m getting even better at loving my husband. I realized that the way I feel loved and the way he feels loved are different. Rather than loving him the way I want to be loved, I needed to make more of an effort to love him the way he desired to be loved. And the more love exchanged between the two of us, the more we are able to live in the now, free from pollution and filled with promise.
Photo Source: My Instagram @hismrshermr