Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Muddled Love* Forgiving Your Spouse

I was going to write a post on my favorite place in this whole big wide world. 

It is so beautiful that my pictures don't even come close to showing how amazing a place it is. My sister's photographs come close but there is something tangible in the air up North that you can really only see it and feel it when you are there.

My grandparent's scrimped and saved and bought a small piece of land on a beautiful quiet lake. My grandpa built a cabin long before I was a thought in my mother's mind. She grew up in the Cities and spent her childhood summers heading up to the cabin on weekends with her parents and siblings. They hiked and swam and caught frogs and fished till they were bored and then did it all over again.

The cabin stayed in the family and we got to spend a week or so every summer hiking and swimming and catching frogs and fishing... and then doing it all over again. We played in the water till our fingers wrinkled and scarfed down chocolate chip cookies and hot cocoa every evening. We would read books late into the night and then wake early to the smell of coffee and pine sap. The hummingbirds whirred out the front window and water lapped at the grass shoreline teasing us with the promise of a morning swim. Mom would take us to town just to window shop and peek at all the tourist trinkets that we never bought because we were like the locals. This was her other home. She was accepted as a regular.

Somehow in all that regularness of our growing up, a love grew for this humble place. A feeling of Home. 

It is where I retreated so I could heal after my miscarriage. It is where I brought my babies and taught them to trust a life jacket. It is where I first tasted good coffee with my feet sunk up to ankle in cool, soft water. It is where I have cried out to God loudest because it echoes across the lake and sounds like a true declaration. I dreamed of the lily pads floating gently on shimmery lake currents while in labor with my children. My husband fished badly with my siblings here and was accepted. Dear ones we have loved and lost were invited into this secret and safe place. The Hippie Chick became my sister here in this sun dappled world of thick pines and leafy oaks. 

My children have been enchanted by its sense of family. They feel the generations of feet walking the path from the front door to the dock. They respect the space and freely discuss topics that may have been left undisclosed. They have played board games, scarfed cookies and had cocoa for breakfast. They have hiked and swam till their fingers wrinkled. They have caught fish and found frogs. They have eaten marshmallows burnt off the stick and swatted mosquitoes. They have gladly shared air mattresses and sleeping bags all so we can vacation together. And then done it all over again, because they love this place. This Home.

There is above all, a feeling of family.

So that was going to be my post.

But then, as per my willingness last week to open my mouth about how I will write stuff even when I don't want to I figure I better finish this. You see, I have been withholding a forgiveness. And it revolves around this place I call Home. This little cabin in the woods.

Last year was a rough year. I wanted to pack my bags and Move to The Cabin last summer just so I could run away. I desperately needed a vacation. I needed someplace where I could eat and swim and run and allow my children to be dirty faced and happy for a week or so. I needed to be free from the everyday drag my life sometimes gets caught up in. I needed to be in  place of quiet, with no electronic distraction and no sound of the garbage truck first thing in the morning.

I am a stay at home, homeschooling mother with a Hubs that lives in a different town for his job more than half of the week and two teenagers in two separate high schools. I have a unique job description and it includes no time off, ever. There is no break from the daily grind. There is no relief from the pressure of motherhood. There is no back up. There is no one to throw my struggling teenager at when I need an instant answer. There is often no help when my toddler is teething, Sir Bean is acting out, and Prince Ray is lying to me. I never get a moment. 

Unless, I am at the cabin. It is essential to my well-being. At least I can bring my crazy working life to a different atmosphere and things seem to be calmer there. They always behave better when they are out of their element.

But last year was going to be Epic. I was going to get to go for a whole weekend. With my sisters, and Princess Peony. I was literally in tears of excitement over the whole thing. Time for me. With the girls! We planned some Bible readings, some crafts and girly stuff. We figured out recipes we could make with things the little kids and menfolk won't eat. Seriously. So Happy.

The Hubs was going to take off work from a Thursday through a Sunday. The date set and planned months ahead of time. All was organized with the precision of an army planning for battle.

And then he changed jobs within his company. He couldn't take off. Not his fault. Just Life.

It was impossible to find a way around it... I wasn't going. My weekend was not happening. 
I cried for days. I felt awful. Worse yet, nobody went. And I never got up there with my family or the kids either. 

No break. No safe place. No going Home.

I realized as I was writing about my favorite place in the whole world that I had not truly forgiven him. It was mostly out of his control. It was not an intentional hurt. I think he felt bad. There was a series of miscommunication. It was easier for him to work with the new position than try to get the weekend off. It was a measured decision based on his job and the need there. In the end, it was the right decision.

However, what I felt was that my most desperately needed weekend was less important to him. That I was less important to him. That my needs and wants came after his. That he didn't understand.

I don't think that is true. But, that is what I felt at the time.

Feelings, though are fickle aren't they? They can be true at the time but only to the beholder. Trusting in your feelings can be foolish.
How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
    and fools hate knowledge? ~Proverbs 1:2

Life is full of mishaps that step on toes, break hearts, crush spirits and damage feelings. We almost never mean to hurt the people we love. Not really. Life just happens.
How very good and pleasant it is
    when kindred live together in unity! ~Psalm 133:1
So on to that elusive thing called forgiveness.

I found numerous verses commanding forgiveness. They all apply to your spouse.

Forgive with loving and kindness. That means no holding grudges. No halfsies on forgiving. Bury that hatchet and do not leave the handle out. Your husband does not need to hear about it over and over and over again. 
 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. ~ Ephesians 4:32
Forgive when you are bearing the complaint. Simply because the LORD forgave you. He is setting a high standard in which to follow. You need to forgive even if the complaint is valid. You need to forgive even if you are in the 'right'. Someday you will be in the wrong. You would want that some loving courtesy.
 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord  has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. ~Colossians 3:13
Forgive when your husband is repentant.  Even if it has hurt you to the core. You must forgive.
 Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. ~Luke 17:3
Forgive often. Forgive repeatedly.
 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. ~Matthew 18:21-22

So what good is it? How does this motivate me to forgive a wrong or even a perceived wrong? If I forgive and they sin against me again, why do I need to forgive again? The LORD has given us pretty clear instruction.  We need to forgive if we want to be forgiven.

Think about this in a marriage relationship. We need to forgive and forget all the time. I am human and a messy person. He is human and a messy person. Together, we are not a recipe for perfection. We are the definition of messy marriage. If I want to be forgiven when I have wronged or hurt him then I had better well forgive him when he fails or wrongs me.

It is going to happen sometimes. This is real marriage. This is not a princess story. This Chubby Princess has a stubborn heart and sarcastic tongue. The Knight in rusted armor is temperamental when tired and quick to anger. Arrows on occasion are going to fly. So, forgive.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you;~ Matthew 6:14
We are also told that to foster friendship we need to forgive. In marriage, our spouse should be our best friend. How do you be best friends if one of you is holding a grudge? In my case, I was pushing that feeling aside. Once that cabin post popped up, all I could think about was how upset I still was over not going! I thought I had dealt with it. I never forgave. It was still there. It wasn't hurting him. It was hurting me. Essentially it was causing a friction whenever we talked about the cabin. I need to forgive him, even if he hasn't asked for it. Even if he didn't realize how bad he offended. Because, I don't want to alienate my best friend.
 One who forgives an affront fosters friendship, but one who dwells on disputes will alienate a friend. ~Proverbs 17:9
Once more, to clarify. In a normal, healthy marriage. Where no one is getting hurt. Where no abuse is present. I would encourage you to pray for God's strength to forgive your spouse of any wrongdoings. Or perhaps even ask for forgiveness for your own wrongdoing. There should be no shame. We are all broken and damaged people. Asking for Forgiveness should be heartfelt but not demeaning. We all have fallen short. We are all asked to forgive.

To my sisters who bear a much greater burden. I will say the same thing. You must forgive. I don't believe you need to be in that space being abused to do that forgiving. The LORD wants us to preserve life. The life of your children. Your life. Get to a safe place. Seek shelter within a Christian community designed to help your situation. Pray. Seek wise counsel and encourage your spouse to do the same.

"A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers." -Ruth Bell Graham

Always Blessed,
Gretchen :)
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  1. Wow... That's a tough post to follow with a comment. I was thinking that your cabin "sounded like heaven" and then, there's life here on earth, right?

    Very well said, well spoken, and ... wow.

    I really appreciate that you posted this - some difficult thoughts but so well said and backed up w/the Word.

    Forgiveness is very difficult to do sometimes. I know what you're talking about.

    Thank you - much - for your post.


    That last photo, roasted marshmallows?
    Love your descriptions - Chubby Princess and Knight in Rusted armor. :)

    1. Well, it is a wonderful place. My favorite! And the rest, yep it is life. Life is what it is, and it is meant to make us trust the LORD and bring glory through our faults and risings. Thank you for reading. ;)

  2. PS I had to mention your post on my blog. I used the marshmallow photo ;)

  3. Oh, Gretchen. I love you and your hubster. Your post is very true to form and extremely convicting. Thankfully, Handy Randy and I have a cliche 'don't go to bed angry' rule so very few issues have gone this long without resolution. We all fall short, present company included, and thank the LORD HE does forgive us our messy thoughts and actions.

    I love this post. The honesty is so out there and it is so raw. You are amazing and I love you.

    Has he read this?

    1. Rosie! I love you, too. You know that I am not so good at the let out the feelings that are really deep and raw. SO this was big. But I promised to be authentic and throw out the truth. My fails and life learnings just show others that we are all in this big, scary journey together... muddling and fumbling through it. Thank The LORD, for His guidance... now I just need to listen better. <3

    2. And yes, I read him the first half...

  4. Forgiving is a wonderful thing. It sounds more like you needed to forgive yourself. It sounds like your introspection led you to understand that this wasn't about him at all, but about your disappointment. Truly forgiving ourselves is something most of us overlook.

    So it seems that you don't really need the cabin to have clear vision. But it certainly is nice to get together with loving family.


    1. :) Indeed, Self forgiveness is elusive and much harder to define and walk in.

  5. No good way to comment on this post, I just loved it.
    So glad you shared it at Matrimonial Mondays, I plan on featuring it tomorrow! :)


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