Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Forgiveness Can't Forget

Although at times I feel my wife and I have come amazingly far down the path of reconciliation, there are painful bumps in the road. Those bumps have the innate ability to transport us right back to the palpable and excruciatingly painful moments in the past.

My wife has truly forgiven me. I have truly repented of my marital unfaithfulness. We have worked together, sorting through our personal histories, delving deep beneath hidden scars to evaluate what brought us to the point we were when I made the decision to cheat. (On a side-note, the cliché: It just happened is a lie. There is a decision made deep within the heart of a person before actions are ever initiated. I'll address that subject in another post all to itself.)

There isn't anything in the Bible that commands us to forgive and forget. There are plenty of examples that instruct us to forgive - even to the point that if we don't forgive, we will not be forgiven (Matt 18:35, Matt 6:15, Mark 11:26). Forgetting is impossible. We are human beings. We have been given a brain. We are designed to experience, to learn, and to remember.

I don't like that part of my design - and at the same time, I am thankful. My memories keep me humble. My memories help whatever self-righteous, egotistical condemnation I'd be willing to cast onto another person for their choices, to remain in check. I used to look down my nose at so many people and think, "What an idiot. " "How disgusting." Now I simply remember that the same Christ Jesus who willingly laid down His life for my sins, did the same for every other person on this planet.

What are these bumps I mentioned?

It's like sense-memory (which most of us have experienced). You'll run across a scent randomly that will take you instantaneously back to a time and place long ago, like Grandma's kitchen - usually with wonderfully pleasant memories. Our bumps in the road are quite unpleasant to say the least. 

We might have a great morning. We'll wake up in each other's arms. We'll prepare breakfast together, read a devotional, smile, share a few laughs, and leave the house for an outing. Then, I'll notice that our outing has led us into a familiar part of town. This familiarity however is dark and foreboding. One of the several shes from the past lives in that area. It's too late for me to find an alternate route. Because at the moment of my own realization, my wife has already been a couple of steps ahead of me.

Then the dreaded questions begin.

"How many times did you say you went over to her house?"

"I really don't remember...that was so long ago."

[Long stretch of uncomfortable silence.]

That silence is filled with me beating myself up in my heart and in my head. Although that is not my wife's intention, I do tell myself I fully deserve it.

For my wife, that moment is filled with hundreds of additional questions that bring back stinging, dagger-like pain in her heart. Most of those questions will remain unanswered...not because I am unwilling to sort through the painful truth, but because I honestly can't remember all of the details. 

When the news of what I had done was fresh, the questions came at all hours and times. After many months had gone by, the space in between grew greater and greater.

Now, the bumps and questions are usually just triggered by certain things: a freeway entrance, a landmark, a street sign, a certain couple of neighborhoods and suburbs, the names of a couple of mutual friends, certain kinds of foods, and a handful of other things.

These bumps keep me humble. These bumps remind me of my sin. These bumps help me to deeply appreciate the Grace, Love, and Forgiveness my wife has given to me.

I don't know if forgiveness and forgetfulness is even a good idea. If we truly forgot our past mistakes, would growth and maturity really be a possibility? Would soul-deep relationships even exist?


  1. I started to read your blog and it has been a blessing for me. I've been betrayed and am dealing with the extreme pain this has caused me. I was never aware it would be this painful. Nothing in my life has been this painful or hard and I have had a pretty hard life (from childhood neglect to sexual abuse). Please keep doing what you are doing cause it has blessed me and I'm sure many others tremendously.

    1. Thank you for your words of encouragement. We will be praying for you. Please be encouraged in spite of the pain - read Isaiah 61 and hear the words of the Lord, spoken by the prophet Isaiah to the people of Israel.

  2. Just found your blog. I've only read a couple of entries but am already identifying with things that you and your spouse have experienced. Thank you for sharing your story. God Bless you!

    1. Thank you for your comments. It is encouraging when people remind me that our story connects with others. Blessings to you.