This morning the Beve left for work at the usual time of half past who knows when, when I was still, as I always am, deep in some dream or other. And two hours later, when I was still sleeping, while it was still pretty stinkin' early, if you ask me, he walked back into the house. Both dogs started barking, and my heart pounded right out my chest wall. The dogs recognized his little pick-up and were sure they'd slept through the whole day, but I knew exactly what time it was and was certain the Beve had come home with a Meniere's attack, dizzy and light-headed. It's not far-fetched, and is not a pretty sight, my friends, trust me on that one. I've seen him knock down towel racks, and practically bust out a glass shower door when he gets to spinning. And I'm asking, if a big man falls in our bathroom, is a small (ish) woman able to help? That's not rhetorical, by the way... So it was only natural that I be slightly anxious--OK, downright panicked--to see him walking in the house at 7:30 on a Monday morning. But he said, "I decided to take the day off." And then I remembered. It was just too early, that's my only excuse. I knew all day yesterday what today would bring.
24 years: that's what today brought. Our anniversary. Twenty-four years ago this afternoon, the Beve and I stood up in front of God and about 450 people and made a whole lot of promises, ones we'd written ourselves for the occasion. We had no idea what we were pledging to each other. People rarely do on their wedding days, I think. It takes living out those vows to discover you mean them, and only then with the grace of God. We begin in earnest pagentry, and practice in the daily grind of life. Later that evening my dad told me that the Beve had really painted himself into a corner with those vows of his, hadn't given himself any room to manuever but I was much too white-dressed twitterpated to understand what Dad meant. However, this morning, as we were sitting in front of the fire--it's a whole lot cooler here today than it was on that sunny day in the Palouse--I told Beve I could only remember one thing he'd said to me that day. He'd said he would always ask for forgiveness, and would always forgive me, even before I asked for it.
I've been thinking about that one line from his much longer vow. The Beve has kept that promise, you know. And sometimes, I have to be honest, I've been a little miffed that he's forgiven me so quickly. And more importantly, that he's asked for it so fast. There have been times when I've wanted to be mad at him. I've wanted to stew about things in the last 24 years--because I was right. I wanted to hold things against him, when he'd wronged me. But I remember the moment--yes, the exact moment--when I realized that I absolutely couldn't hold things against him. It was our second year of marriage and we were living in a dorm at Pacific Lutheran University. I was standing in our bedroom, which was just one of three rooms in a row that comprised the hall-director's apartment. And I was spitting fire, I was so mad at him. Standing there, I wondered how long I could hold onto that anger before it took hold of me. Could I hold it overnight? A couple of days, maybe? A week? I wanted to hold it just as long as I possibly could--because I felt justified in it!!--but not so long that it would stick within me.
And that was the moment--a holy, Holy Spirit moment, where God met me and said, "Not a single instant." If I held on to that offense for any time at all, it'd stick in my heart, like balls to a velcro wall, and the next one I'd hold on to for a bit longer, and the next longer still, and by 24 years later, all we'd have between us would be my long list of offenses against him. And you know, I remember with crystal clarity that moment, but have no clue what the offense was. I have learned to forgive. Slowly. With mis-steps. He always asks pretty quickly. I'd always rather brood a little first, talk through whatever it is that has happened. Just last night I got pretty mad at him when we were changing the sheets on our bed. He had more sheet on his side, and I wanted him to come look at my side so he'd see my point. He just wanted me to pull the sheet over, which was reasonable. But instead I got mad. He didn't want to do it my way. You'd think we hadn't made our king-sized bed together twice a week for the last 24 years (I LOVE clean sheets!). I walked away. But about thirty seconds later, I walked back in the room, and collapsed on the bed, laughing. And the Beve laughed with me. But then he said, "Marriages fall apart over things like this." And it's probably, sadly true. But I can't bear to hold on. I can't take the chance of holding something against him, even trivial things like him not making the bed the way I would, because maybe this would be the one that sticks--that starts that odious list.
Maybe this is a funny thing to write about on our anniversary. But then again, maybe, just maybe it's the secret to these 24 years. I think my dad had it right--there was only a tiny space to maneuver in those vows of my earnest young husband's. But that space has been all we've needed. Forgiveness.