“A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”
Ruth Bell Graham
It’s the graduate school of relationships. The smartest, most spiritual, most mature people on earth grapple with ascending this Kilimanjaro, but those who make it to the top of Mt. Forgiveness say the view is worth it.
Standing at the summit, with the crystal breeze blowing in my face, I think I can say, that, really, to be just about perfect, and therefore to have a just-about-perfect marriage, we only have to master two things: requesting forgiveness and extending forgiveness.
At this precise moment, I am feeling mighty fine about my progress on both counts. The sky is clear: no clouds on any horizon. I feel fairly acclimated to the rarefied atmosphere. As my boots dig into the ice and the flag of truce waves triumphant, it seems my membership in the elite club of Superior Spouses is secure.
Thunder rolls out of nowhere, the earth begins to shake, the mountain opens up, and suddenly – I am in a familiar crevasse – not that far actually, from base camp (my wedding day).
I have to choose again. To ascend or not to ascend. To forgive or not to forgive. To repent or not to repent. To love or not to love.
I have to choose again. And again. And again. And again.
And so does he.
Thankfully, forgiveness is not an emotion; nothing so elusive as that. It’s a choice. And I can make a choice. So, I scrounge through my backpack of mountain-climbing paraphernalia and pull out the three tools that will get me out of here, back into the sunlight.
Accept that he’s not a monster just chomping at the bit to toss me over the edge; in fact, he’s in his own crevasse right now, dreading hypothermia as much as I am.
Put away the ice ax and screws.
This snow bridge may take time and careful testing. Important: get an early start. These slick slopes are easier to cross in the “morning” of – soon after – an incident. As the “day” (week, months, years) wears on, the mushier (more difficult) they get.
If practice makes perfect, my husband should be a world champion mountaineer by now. We both should. The rumbles and tumbles keep coming, but I think, after 38 years, all in all, we are increasingly expert at reading the weather and side-stepping falling rock; spending less energy crawling out of crevasses, and more time enjoying the summit. Thankfully, we have survived this thing called “marriage”: unquestionably the most daring undertaking in the human experience, because we refused to be buried alive by our avalanches of pride.
(Experience has taught us that if one climber falls, the whole expedition is in jeopardy.)
So, fellow adventurers: no need to fear! Though you may not always like being tied to the same rope as your partner, as long as it’s a line fixed on conquering together, anchored in forgiveness, you can avoid the hazards and minimize the risks.
And believe me – it’s all worth it. The view IS SPECTACULAR!
“Acceptance of what has happened in the past is the best way to change the future. You cannot change the fact that it happened. Why not accept that it did—face reality—and go from there?” Joe Beam, Becoming One, 2010, p. 119, Simon & Schuster, Inc.*