They sat nervously. They had successfully planned the wedding, the reception, and the honeymoon. The new apartment was rented and furnished. In their minds they had done “everything” necessary to be successfully married. Like millions before them, they naively assumed that they would live happily ever after.
Which is why they were surprised when I asked them, “What is your forgiveness plan?” Observing the quizzical look on their faces, I knew I needed to explain. It clearly was something they had not considered.
Without question, love is a many splendored thing; at least in the beginning. Then the grind of daily life sets in. Slowly the rose loses its bloom and the intoxicating effect of infatuation fades. Neuroscientist’s have found that infatuation lasts between 2-4 years. There is literally a chemical change in the brain that partially blinds us to some of the most obvious and unattractive aspects of our beloved.
I suspect this was God’s plan. He allows the illusion of romance because if we had an unfettered view of others, we would never marry. But illusion always gives way to disillusion. Our view becomes more objective. Facets of our beloved’s personality that we either previously missed or disregarded; increasingly become unattractive, annoying, embarrassing, and/or unbearable. The once clever, assertive, industrious, protective, caring lover, is mystically replaced with a moronic, controlling, lazy, selfish brute. Pheromones became body odor.
Sadly, most young couples are convinced their relationship will be different. They are wrong. It is only a matter of time before your beloved will do or say something that will hurt. Hurts will become offenses, and then grow into resentments. That’s when we start keeping a “record of wrongs.” (1Corinthians 13:5)
Dr. John Gottman, co-founder of the Relationship Research Institute, has spent the last 20 years searching for solutions to broken relationships. He can predict with 94% accuracy whether a marriage will survive or die, simply by studying how a couple candidly talks to each other, especially in times of conflict. There is an observable progression at at-risk marriages go through:
• Complaining: “I can’t stand it when…”
• Criticism: “I can’t stand it when YOU…”
• Contempt: “I can’t stand YOU!”
Soon every encounter is punctuated with sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor.
How does a couple break the cycle? Forgiveness! Forgiveness is not a feeling or an emotion. It’s a choice; a very painful choice. Our souls demand justice, fairness. We want scores to be settled. We say things like, “I’ll forgive when you have changed.” But that’s not how forgiveness works.
Forgiveness is a decision to stop hoarding our hurts and let them go. Its not that we pretend we haven’t been hurt. Rather it is a decision to no longer allow hurt to be the reference point of our relationship.
Unfair? Maybe. But no relationship can survive without forgiveness; including our relationship with God. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:33)
Editor’s Note: You can connect with Calvary Spokane Church on their social media community, The City, at https://calvaryspokane.onthecity.org. You can also check out their many resources available including podcasts at www.calvaryspokane.com or call their office at 509-467-2860 for more information