Just recently, as a family project, we bought a boat. Yes, I know the old saying, “the two happiest days in a boat owner’s life are when you buy it and when you sell it.” Well, this boat is an old fixer upper and in the course of working on it I needed some glue. After getting many responses to this question on a boat website it was clear that I was looking for glue that would attach two very significant parts of the boat together and that this glue would have to withstand years of stress and pressure. The glue would have to be able to bend and flex with the hull, all the time still maintaining its’ integrity and function or else the bond would fail and the boat would be in jeopardy.
As I reflected on this issue, it reminded me a lot of marriage and made me wonder, what is the glue in marriage? Is it love, patience, fortitude, perseverance……? The glue in marriage is the thing that allows us to weather the storms of life, gives us the flexibility to deal with our different personalities and peculiarities, allows us to bend and yet not break under the pressure of maintaining a relationship and keeps the different significant pieces together without which we would surely be in jeopardy.
Sounds like Forgiveness to me.
Oh, I know, forgiveness gets a bad rap today in many circles. That is because it is misunderstood. We often confuse forgiveness with a myriad of other things. Let’s start with what forgiveness is not. It is not condoning what may have happened, it is not forgetting or minimizing, it is not denying or avoiding dealing with events, forgiveness is not acting like something is no big deal.
By contrast, forgiveness is clearly acknowledging what was wrong or hurtful and choosing not to harbor it against another. Yes there may be consequences and new boundaries set, but it allows us to continue loving one another despite what has happened. Imagine telling someone personal information that you did not want others to know and yet the information was shared. You can forgive that person but you would be wise to have a boundary regarding what information you share with them in the future.
A relational model that we get for forgiveness from scripture is that when someone has wronged or offended us, we are to confront and then forgive them. If we are the offender, we are to confess and seek that forgiveness. These things are to be pursued whether or not the other person does their part. It is not a matter of “I won’t forgive him until he apologizes” or “I won’t apologize until she admits what she did.” It is taking personal responsibility for our behavior regardless if we are the one offended or if we are the offender. This process allows us to then be able to continue demonstrating kindness and love to each other even in the midst of difficult times.
It is only through forgiveness that we are able to maintain a loving relationship. Without forgiveness, how can we maintain what we committed to “in sickness and in health” and “in good times and in bad”? It is impossible. When we don’t operate in forgiveness there is a roadblock that keeps us from both giving and receiving love.
Think about where you have been harboring anger or resentment towards your spouse, and seek forgiveness. Think about how you have felt hurt, and grant forgiveness. I found out in my search for the right type of glue for the boat that it is out there, but very expensive. Forgiveness is priceless, but has already been paid for.