A while ago, I sat down to one of my favorite meals. Sitting in front of me at the dinner table was a large heaping plate of lasagna with garlic bread and salad on the side. I had smelled the dish cooking and waited rather impatiently for it to be done. Now the moment had arrived and I was about to partake of this simply delicious meal. There was only one problem; I had lost my appetite. I looked to my right at my wife’s empty chair. She was absent and the food was getting cold. I quickly prayed so my son could begin eating, but my food sat there and in my mind was getting cold much quicker than it would have under normal circumstances. What could have caused the empty seat next to me and the lukewarm food in front of me? Nothing kills an appetite like an argument, and we had just finished with one. If you are reading this with judgement on the brain, let me stop you right there. Please spare me your hypocritical thoughts about good marriages never having arguments. Every couple I know fights some times. I feel confident in saying that if you claim to have never argued with your spouse, you are either lying or you have bigger problems than you realize in your marriage. When two sinful people share a life together and communicate there are bound to be disagreements. If there aren’t you are probably not communicating or not being honest with your spouse. I don’t remember what the fight was about or who was wrong and who was right (chances are I was wrong). The truth is that it doesn’t really matter. In fact that is part of the reason I have waited so long to write this post. What I do remember is the frustration that I felt as my appetite dissipated and my food got cold in front of me. I love to eat, so dinner time arguments are avoided whenever possible and doubly frustrating when they happen.
It’s funny the things you think about in those moments of anger and frustration. I remember staring down at the hot mess of cheese, pasta, and spaghetti sauce and thinking that I would never be able to enjoy lasagna again. In those moments, fresh from the battle, it seemed that even the way I viewed the food in front of me would never be the same. I am well aware that it was a ridiculous thought, but I am happy that I had it none the less, as it became the fodder for this post. In my mind in those moments the two things (the argument and lasagna) were forever linked together. Little did I know that the lasagna was about to teach me a big lesson about forgiveness and love. As a husband, Scripture offers a deep and heavy challenge when it comes to the way I relate to my wife. Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Not only are we told to love our wives, but we are to love like Christ loved. We read here that the essence of Christ’s love was the giving of himself. So often I hear people say that they will forgive, but they can never forget. I am somewhat sympathetic to this mindset, especially from someone who has been burned over and over again. Yet, it seems to be at odds with this biblical idea of forgiveness and love. The love of Christ that husbands are told to emulate in their relationships with their wives is one that requires a giving of one’s self. Most of us will not have to physically die for our wives, but what about dying to self? What if what we give is really to give up our own pride, our own selfishness, and to set aside our own hurt? The example of Christ like love is one that sets aside all those things when faced with love and forgiveness. Imagine how many times you have disappointed God and hurt him. Christ being omniscient (all knowing) went to the cross knowing every way we would selfishly reject him in favor of doing our own thing, yet he went anyway. Knowing how we would often sin against him he committed the ultimate act of giving anyway. So when we ask how we can forgive and love in the face of constant failure and hurt, the example of Christ answers us with unwavering certainty. Therefore love in its truest form is simply giving up what we want for the sake of the other person and doing it without hesitation and without reservation.
So what about that lasagna? Have you ever had reheated lasagna? I have, and let me tell you that it is just as delicious reheated. My wife and I ate that reheated lasagna and seasoned it with the sweet savor of love and forgiveness. I know that made it taste all the better. Like I said I don’t know who was at fault or how we resolved our disagreement, but the point is we did. Those moments like the one where we sat down together and I looked at the lasagna with the same love that I always have are special ones. Did I say lasagna? I meant I looked at my wife with the love I always have. You see that is really the point. In the moments of anger we allow all kinds of thoughts to swirl through our minds. We assume the worst and in our darker moments may even question our relationships, but we are blinded in those moments. We are experiencing temporary blindness of the heart and we cannot see clearly. When we make life altering decisions in these moments we are asking for failure. It is like deciding to wear a blindfold as you get in your car and drive down the road to the store. It is a simple thing, but the blindness means we are very likely to crash along the way. Such moments give birth to thoughts we would normally think are ridiculous, such as, thinking I could never enjoy lasagna again. I have often been counseled by people wiser than myself and have counseled others that doing things in the heat of the moment is seldom wise. This is especially true when anger and hurt hang over our lives and desire to pull our strings like a puppet master. How many relationships both marital and otherwise have been ruined in such moments? We would be wise to follow the directive of James 1:19. “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”
1 Corinthians 13:7 is a powerful verse. It falls right into the middle of the Apostle Paul’s description of love. Speaking of love it says simply, “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” These four simple desciprtions of love have often proved to be a great encouragement and a great conviction to me. I especially appreciate the hoping part and the enduring part. Christ’s love for me put in action offers to me the greatest hope of all. That kind of hope needs to seep into our other relationships as well, especially our marriages. Then there is the enduring part. True love endures petty arguments and lapses in human judgment. It allows us to look beyond those moments and experience renewed hope in our spouses. It can even bring healing in instances of extreme hurt and loss of trust. A few days ago, my wife and I celebrated six years of marriage. Like most young couples those years have been full of important lessons and steep learning curves, of which I am sure there will be many more. I am learning that the some of the moments of real value are the ones of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation. I am blessed to be married to a woman who will sit down to reheated lasagna and a heaping serving of love and forgiveness.