Chapters 9 and 10 of Sacred Marriage are entitled Sacred Struggle, Embracing the Difficulty in Order to Build Character and Falling Forward, Marriage Teaches Us to Forgive. This week, I write about moving toward our spouse, or falling forward.
We can’t always control whether or not we fall, but we can control the direction in which we fall—toward or away from our spouse. ~ Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage
One December evening almost nine years ago, I stood near the open door of my Pathfinder, placing an overnight bag on the back seat. As I stepped back to close the door, my feet went out from underneath me. I came down hard on the driveway’s icy shell. As soon as I stood and placed my feet on the skating rink surface, I went down again. This time, the intense gnashing pain in my wrist screamed that my wrist was broken.
Weeks after surgery, I watched my stepdaughter practice taekwondo fall techniques. She said learning to fall properly could prevent injury.
Students of martial arts, dance and acting learn to fall. As a child, I watched black-and-white Western television shows. Actors leaped from saloon rooftops, moving trains, and galloping horses—falling forward with each hurdle. The scar on my wrist tells me I did it badly.
Marriage, like life, is filled with trials and falls. Who hasn’t been challenged at the kitchen sink with hands in lukewarm dishwater, seething over a quarrel with their spouse? In the past, I have fallen backwards due to my lack of conflict resolution, communication, or forgiveness. Other times, my own words made me fall down.
In his book, Learning to Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life, Philip Simmons writes, “We have all suffered, and will suffer, our own falls.” The fall from holding back the necessary apology, the waning of intimacy, or the failure to communicate only causes relational, emotional, and spiritual injury.
As Gary points out, we do have some say in the manner of our falling, by controlling the direction, forward or away.
With a fall comes the getting up—and the learning. Sacred Marriage teaches me to continually move toward my husband. Gary’s instruction lays the stepping-stones to my personal, marital and Christian growth.
Gary affirms, “Getting married is agreeing to grow together, into each other, to virtually commingle our souls so that we share a unique and rare bond.”
He continues, “When we stop doing that, we have committed fraud against our partner.”
I had never considered that in my moments of pulling away out of anger and exasperation—of fuming at the kitchen sink or retreating to another room—I was committing fraud against my husband.
Instead, I am called to embrace him and to grow toward him, allowing love to redefine my feelings of frustration or disinterest.
From the porch where Andy and I sit with morning coffee, the last bursts of autumn’s glory always beckon for my attention. Winds position leaves as dance partners: sangria and butternut, cinnamon and marigold, cider and avocado. Mature leaves swing and step to the wind’s silent music with a trust and grace that gives back.
I look at marriage in a similar way, seeing how it requires a beautiful offering with trust and grace—a giving that gives back.
Learning to fall forward in my marriage to Andy is like choreographing our own dance steps with a heart that moves away from self and toward the other.
Gary points to many principles in his book. Here are a few ways you can practice falling forward in your marriage.
- Communication Carries Vital Oxygen to the Heart of Our Marriage
We give ourselves to each other in a number of ways, including conversation, physical touch, and our written words. This gift of self moves us toward our spouse as we nourish our marriage.
Two years ago, Andy and I cancelled our television cable subscription. It turned out to be one of the best things we did for our marriage. Since, our conversations have deepened and our knowledge for one another is richer.
Touching is another important way couples communicate and give to each other. This includes sexual expression, as well as nonsexual touch. While men need to be reminded how essential nonsexual touch is to their wives, women should realize the importance of sexually pursuing their husbands.
Authors Kathleen and Thomas Hart write, “One can do many external deeds of love and still hold back the really precious gift, the inner self. This gift can be given only through communication.”
Andy and I discovered our collection of written words—our hearts unveiled in handwriting—led to the giving of our inner selves.
- Forgiveness is the Key to Healing
Through DivorceCare, I learned that I may not feel like forgiving, but must remember forgiveness is the key to my healing. Gary explains, “Forgiveness is an act of self-defense, a tourniquet that stops the fatal bleeding of resentment.”
Forgiveness is also a process, rather than an event. There are times when I think I have forgiven. Then an event or situation reminds me of my hurt and my need to relinquish my bitterness—again. If I refuse to release it, I am only confining myself as prisoner.
- Not Running From Conflict, But Toward It
When Andy and I tied the knot, we joined our hopes and dreams, but also our hurts, fears, and imperfections. This blending naturally makes conflict inevitable. Gary reminds me, “Every relationship involves conflict, confession, and forgiveness.”
Once I asked Andy what words of advice he had about conflict resolution. These are the points he made:
- Don’t be afraid to say, “I’m sorry.”
- Have the difficult conversation before it becomes a bigger issue.
- Timing is everything.
- Be kind.
We are learning that successfully negotiated conflict leads to falling forward, into an even stronger marital bond.
For me, falling forward fills the gap between my husband and me, allowing us to embrace a sense of unity that comes from our spiritual closeness. As Andy and I fall forward toward one another, we are positioned closer to Christ and His example of love.
Yes, falls are inevitable, but Gary encourages with these words: “We have a choice: Will we initiate forgiveness and resolve every obstacle? Or will we run away? In other words, will we fall forward, or will we fall away?”
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What steps can you take to fall forward?
***We do have some say in the manner of our falling, by controlling the direction, forward or away. Click To Tweet Communication is a gift of self, moving us toward our spouse as we nourish our marriage. Click To Tweet Forgiveness is first a decision, not a feeling. Click To Tweet Successfully negotiated conflict leads to falling forward, into an even stronger marital bond. Click To Tweet
Join me next week, when we cover highlights from Chapters 11 and 12: Make Me a Servant and Sexual Saints.
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