As I said in my first blog for The Christian Woman, I’m going to stick my neck out and talk about the crash of my 20-year-marriage. For those of you just tuning in, there was indeed a crash, but there are survivors. My husband and I are still together, but we are definitely the walking wounded.
Before I dive into the details, however, I want to state that my goal is to honor my husband in these blogs. That will not always be easy, because in any marriage crash, the two people involved have usually said or done things they are not proud of. However, I hope to focus more on my downfalls and try to keep my husband’s part in the drama as high-level as possible. I don’t want to embarrass him in any way.
Both my husband and I can point to the exact day when everything began to go downhill. It was my birthday, and my grandmother had just died that morning. My grandmother and I had been very close, and I was her last surviving relative, and heir. I live in the Seattle area, and she lived in Oceanside, California. A little over a year earlier, I had moved her out of her home into an assisted living facility in Oceanside, emptied out her house of 25 years with the help of some old friends who lived in the area, and put it on the market.
I could not convince Grandma to come up to my neck of the woods and live in assisted living, so in the ensuing year, I flew down to visit her about every 3 or 4 months. She was 90 years old, and my previously energetic grandma was now dragging around a body that simply wanted to fall apart.
After a year, as her health progressed downward, I finally convinced her to move up near me. Once again, I was in the “moving business” and hired movers to pack up her little apartment, and we came up to Washington. She had barely moved into her new digs when she began falling a lot, and I was called to her side on a regular basis. Her doctor and I were practically on a first-name basis. Only three months after she moved in, she fell and broke her hip, and subsequently died in the hospital about a week after surgery.
Grandma died at 5 a.m. on my birthday, after a long week of intense stress, and visits to the hospital. That night, my husband took me out to dinner in Seattle, and as we sat in a very crowded restaurant, with people at tables literally inches away from ours, we tried to talk. I felt the need to unload.
I talked about how relieved I was that Grandma was no longer trapped in her worn-out body. I talked about how I felt like I had been let out of a cage after months of running back and forth between Grandma’s facility and my home. My children were 11 and 7 when she died, so I had been busy trying to be a Mom, too. I talked about how my inheritance from my Grandma would certainly give us more freedom, since we had always had to be careful with our money…
With that last statement, I might as well have hit my husband over the head with a mallet. Through much of our marriage, my husband has been the sole provider. He felt that his years of working hard to provide for the family had been nullified with one insensitive sentence that implied what he had done wasn’t good enough. I had no idea at the time; I was so wrapped up in my own emotions and exhaustion.
He had good reason to feel that way. My husband has always been an amazing provider. We live in a beautiful home and I have absolutely nothing to complain about. But that one sentence in my husband’s mind was simply the last straw of what he felt were years of straws.
It didn’t matter that I needed grace that night. Grace is a tough thing to grant when you have just been hit over the head.
I believe when the Lord Jesus told Peter to forgive people 70 times 7, He was speaking specifically about marriage. When you think about having to forgive a friend 490 times, you begin to wonder why you would ever hang onto a loser like that. But when you think about it in the context of marriage, it takes on a whole different meaning. 490 times? Let’s see–that’s about a year and a half’s worth.
One of the mistakes that we have made through our marriage is not granting forgiveness each time one of us has hurt the other. We have piled up each others’ unforgiven sins between each other like a stack of stinky rotten fish. Now we have this mountain of malodorous entrails between us, and it just somehow seems easier to stay on our separate sides than to try to climb through the muck.
I am now learning to go immediately to Jesus when my husband hurts me. IMMEDIATELY–before another stinky fish appears. This has several advantages:
–It prevents me from having a knee-jerk reaction and saying something hurtful back to my husband.
–Within a few minutes, I have a peace about it, and the Lord often gives me a different perspective. Forgiveness is always easier when the Lord is involved.
–Keeping my mouth shut and going directly to prayer affects my husband far more positively than anything else I could do or say, because it is very hard for me to be gracious when I am hurt, just as it was for him at that birthday dinner.
I remember reading the following sentence many years ago, and it touched me so deeply that I never forgot it: “Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that crushed it.”
So, what will it be? Stinky fish, or the sweet fragrance of violets?