We tried to go to bed. It was late, and we were beyond exhausted, but as we lay stiff and unflinching in our dark bedroom, we knew that neither of us would soon be getting any sleep. I had said something stupid as I am wont to do. It was just an off-hand, thoughtless comment, and I knew as soon as it came out of my mouth that it was wrong.
My words hung in the air between us, an invisible barrier to our usual friendship and affection for one another, and no amount of apologizing could erase what I had said. He was hurt and angry, and he had every right in the world to be.
We argued in our awkward way. We debated about who would move to the couch, although in truth neither of us wanted the other to go. On most days we look forward to this very moment, crawling into bed together after a long day, breathing side by side all night. Familiar. Easy.
On this night, though, we struggled to figure out a way to tear down the divide between us, a separation caused by my careless words and his befitting anger. For awhile we didn’t speak. Neither of us knew what else to say. And then, suddenly, he broke the stalemate between us. He reached across cold empty space and made the choice to surrender his right to be angry with me. He pulled me close and we instantly relaxed into our regular, simple way of dreaming through the night together.
He had every reason to be mad for awhile. He could have punished me with cold silence or long explanations of how mean my words had been. He would have been justified in holding onto his anger for the rest of the night, in staying on the far edge of his side of the bed, unyielding. He could have awakened the next morning with anger still burning inside, not yet ready to forgive his wife and closest friend. He could have done any of those things with perfectly legitimate cause.
But he didn’t. He gave up his right to be angry. With the Holy Spirit’s help, he chose to replace strife with peace, angst with comfort, regret with reassurance. He gave me a gift of grace and demonstrated a truth of Scripture: Love keeps no record of wrongs.
I feel sure that this is the kind of grace that peaceful marriages are built on. When husbands and wives resist the urge to be right, to drive their point home, to prove their own righteousness and their spouse’s wretchedness, when they give up their freedom to be offended, when they choose forgiveness over anger–this is where God-given peace can flourish. And this is one way that we can show the world who Christ really is, one petty marital spat at a time. God certainly works in mysterious ways.
Note: Abuse should never be tolerated. If you are in an abusive situation, please don’t consider this post as prescriptive advice. Seek help through a counselor, law enforcement, and your church.