Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
“Confession and forgiveness are the concrete forms in which we sinful people love one another.” Henri Nouwen
When Mary and I were dating and I had just returned from a 3-week seminary course in Mexico on 3rd world Theology, we decided to go to the Jersey Shore. Cape May in particular; far from where Snookie would hang out. While we there, I happened to see some YoungLife kids that I had not seen in three weeks and momentarily lost my focus on what was most important.
While driving on the way home, it was clear I made a romance blunder and had not paid enough attention to the woman I loved and had not seen in three weeks. “I am breaking up with you” Mary blurted as we speeded north on the Garden State Parkway. “You can’t break up with me while I’m driving” was my weak response as if there was some relational traffic law preventing it. “Yes I can, you are dumped!” — her exact words.
As I have done in the years since, I examined the situation, the truth that so clearly convicted me of my selfishness, my insensitivity, or my pride and I did all I knew how to do; acknowledge my guilt, ask for forgiveness and plead for a second chance.
Fortunately she forgave me and gave me a second chance. That moment of restoration led to our engagement and wedding on August 18, 1990.
It was he hottest night that New Jersey could offer, in an un-air-conditioned sanctuary, in front of 650 of our friends and family, Mary Lewis said “I do”, and my life has been better ever since. I was reminded on the altar that day not to let ministry become my mistress. The challenge in Missional leadership is to keep my focus on my number one love after God, then my bride and ministry falls into place somewhere down the line.
This past week, we celebrated our 21st anniversary. The key for us to have sustained a committed relationship this long is first and foremost the Grace of God and the Love of Christ and secondly working hard at being eager to be the first to say you are sorry and quickly saying I forgive you (even when sometimes Mary says to me “I forgive you now pray that my heart catches up to my lips”).
Also during this past week, Mary gave me a haircut, which she has done for most of our 21 years of marriage. The only difference was this time Mary said, “Oh Honey, I’m so sorry!” mid-cut (see photo). Having the perspective of a bad haircut is a lot like what needs to go on in my marriage; move on, be quick to forgive because most of the time, time will indeed heal it.
I know that busyness, responsibilities, opportunities, relationships and ministry can get in the way of my relationship with my wife and with god – distractions can turn into idols. The fact is, when I mess up, I need the truth to be spoken and an opportunity for confession, repentance, recovery and restoration. Billy Graham was once asked what his key is to having an untarnished career in ministry and his response was “daily confession and repentance.” That is a pretty good modus operand for any Emerging Leaders and especially those who are on the journey towards marriage someday. Until then, keep up the great work!