I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth.-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Mona's Musings

November 30th, 2011

Climbing Mt. Forgiveness

“A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” – Ruth Bell Graham

If I were writing a book about marriage (and I am), the very last chapter would be on forgiveness. That’s a figurative way of saying that forgiveness is Advanced Living 500; it is the graduate school of relations. The smartest, most spiritual, most mature people on earth grapple with ascending this Mt. Everest, but like those who make it to the top 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: PURE LOVE (which includes a hefty amount of self-sacrifice) and FORGIVENESS (which often includes a significant measure of repentance).

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.

Then…crrrraaaaacccck.

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.

*First: ASSIGN MY LOVED ONE VALUE AGAIN.

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.

*Second: DECIDE NOT TO TAKE VENGEANCE ON HIM.

Put away the ice ax and screws.

*And Third: RESTORE OUR RELATIONSHIP.

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 34 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

(*For more on the three steps of forgiveness see the book and author cited above: 2010, p. 119, Simon & Schuster, Inc., Kindle Edition)

Hint of Romance

In marriage, forgiveness is the only way up and out.

What did you think of this musing?

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Discussion

  1. Bri Z says:

    Best post. Ever. When Grant and I were dating, I thought we had it all figured out. We figured out how to forgive and even made a motto out of it. The story goes that Grant had said something that I jokingly interpreted as offensive, to which he responded with something that I actually took offense too, which made him realize he was “digging himself into a hole”. When he said so, I decided my pettiness was ridiculous and said that he was alright down in that hole because I would lend him a ladder. Since then the ladder has represented forgiveness for us. But that ladder has had a lot of use since then. It’s been more and more beat up over the years. But it’s a sturdy thing and can take a lot of pressure, because forgiveness is a divine principle and it takes two brave but imperfect people to grasp onto it and climb up to the top to meet each other. It’s like you said: “to have a just-about-perfect marriage, we only have to master two things: PURE LOVE (which includes a hefty amount of self-sacrifice) and FORGIVENESS (which often includes a significant measure of repentance).” When we fail at the first, the second saves us. Thank goodness. Because it’s going to take a lifetime or more for us to master charity, no matter how twitterpatiedly in love we are. :)

    THANK YOU for the post!

    • mona says:

      Thank you for the request to write on this topic!

      Bravo! SO well said! I LOVE “When we fail at the first, the second saves us” and the idea that charity is a heck of lot more involved and disciplined than the soap opera of romantic love.

    • Wonderful sweetie! This conversation represents reality… what marriage and life is actually like and about… what is actually required of us. The world does not represent it correctly and this post gets at one of the most important ideas that couples should understand to create a strong relationship. LOVE IT! Thank you both! I certainly have wonderful women in my life. :)

  2. Laura says:

    What a great post! Such simple concepts, but so profound and important. Thank you for your fantastic example and wise words.

  3. Helen says:

    Soooo very very true! and it is needed in every relationship we are given. Indeed, I feel as though I have been given other people to practice on whilst waiting to be tied to a fellow climber.
    Not surprised that you should be the first to post a response Bri…. what was it you were grateful for Thanksgiving….?

    • Bri Z says:

      The MIRACLE of forgiveness!! :) No coincidence though, as I was the one to beg momsie to write about the subject! :) Love you Helen! Hope you’re settling in well!

  4. Lois Brown says:

    great post! so glad you are writing a book!! I will be first in line to buy it!!

  5. Sarah E. says:

    The ability to forgive and be forgiven has a bonding power, at times, stronger than even sexual intimacy, for me. Exposure to emotional vulnerability leaves me wanting for trust and compassion more so than any other source of validation! BLESS that man who forgives and endures me patiently again and again! What LOVE he has for me! No wonder it becomes more and more baffling to me that he remains constant. There is more history behind us of hurt and disappointment washed away by his charity and forgiveness than ever before. Here we are and he continues yet to invest, support, serve and love me repeatedly in spite of our numerous backslides. I can think of no greater acceptance than to say, “Yes, I take you, your flaws and all and I will let go of the mistakes and cleave to the strengths. Here together we shall stand!” Bless that man! Bless him!

  6. Ellenor says:

    My Darling Mona: That was so beautiful just like you. I was blessed with a husband,
    Love , forgiveness and ChARITY, are the three most important things. He had them all.
    I love the way you write the meanings of of all the things you write about.
    Every day was like a little bit of Heaven. I never wanted it to end. But God knows best .
    I am anxious to get one of your books.

    Love you, Aunt Ellenor

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