One night during my first year of marriage, my wife and I got into a big argument that I haven’t forgotten. It’s not the argument that was memorable though — it’s the way it ended.
We were bickering about something or another and Raquel refused to listen to the points I was making in the kitchen. She was firing back from the living room, and I finally got fed up with it.
“Drop it, Raquel. Just drop it.”
She kept on going, so I raised the volume and said it again: “Drop it, Raquel.”
It only seemed to egg her on even more, so in a moment of profound immaturity, I grabbed a frying pan by the handle and smashed it onto the stovetop as hard as I could.
“Drop it!” I yelled, feeling a rush of adrenaline at my forceful ending of the conversation. Then Raquel outdid me.
“Way to go!” she said in a mocking voice like she was cheering me on. “Look at you. Good one!”
I fell silent, burning with rage, but there was no point in saying anything else. She had embarrassed me into silence, and all I could do was stand there feeling angry at her and ashamed of myself.
This wasn’t what I envisioned when I made my marriage vows. I never imagined Raquel would ever mock me or that I’d be that guy who’s willing to break an appliance in order to make a point. But here we were, those people — that couple.
The early years of our marriage weren’t always like that though. Despite our immaturity and bickering, we also enjoyed long conversations, romance, traveling, and praying together. But somehow, our worst kept coming out and we couldn’t stop it.
We didn’t realize we had signed up for the opportunity to see how much we really wanted to be like Jesus. The whole idea sounds nice on paper, but when temperatures are rising and the frying pan hits the stove, it’s a lot easier to believe the worst and respond to the behavior rather than the person.
Ten years into marriage, I look back at the frustrating early years and realize there’s a big reason why we’re still growing as a couple, rather than growing apart: It’s because Raquel is one of the most chronically forgiving people I know. While she’s not afraid to call me out for being my worst self, once we’ve resolved it, she just moves on. She wants to be friends again. That didn’t come naturally to me, the lawyer in the family.
I wanted a full trial where I could put on my star witness (me), present my case before the judge and jury (also me), and get a guilty verdict against the defendant (my wife). But when you’ve got a wife who’s not even interested in making a case because she’s already over it, it takes a lot of the fun out of being right. You begin to realize that forgiveness is an easier and less exhausting path in the long run.
When couples are willing to forgive each other, they can move forward and look each other in the eyes without anger or shame. They can soften up after the argument is over. If they can get forgiveness right, they can get love right — even if the love is interrupted by times of pride and hurt feelings.
It sounds so hard, especially when we’re living with a person who’s just as stubborn as we are, but as an elderly woman once advised me about marriage, ““You’ve got to remember that one of you will always be loving more.” The question is whether we’re willing to be the one who’s willing to love more, to forgive when it feels like we’ve done enough forgiving.
If we are, it will take every ounce of humility we’ve got, but in return, we get to participate in the great impersonation of Jesus. Like him, we stretch out our arms, choose to pardon someone who doesn’t deserve it, and experience resurrection life, over and over again.