In front of me as I speak this morning is a blue and white cup. It is part of a set by Masons in the ‘Blue Denmark’ pattern. Claire and I chose it 30 years ago when we got married and we love it not because it’s particularly special but because no matter where we have gone or whatever the events of our lives it has accompanied us like good and faithful friends.
Some bits of the set have got chipped. Other parts have had to be renewed and just like the ups and downs of marriage it has experienced various knocks and upsets, yet remains joyful, useful and together. The other day somebody asked what words come to mind if I were to sum up marriage.
‘Leave’, ‘Cleave’, ‘Forgive’ and ‘Forget’.
Those were the four words that immediately came into my head.
Marriage between a husband and wife require both to leave and to cleave. While sex and money can often cause tensions in relationships, it’s a failure to really leave the past that frequently causes deep seated problems. Couples need time to create their own patterns and establish their own norms without unhelpful influence from outside, and husbands and wives need space to become one flesh, physically, emotionally and financially, not just negotiating parameters of personal space but sharing life.
‘Forgive’ and ‘forget’ are the other vital words, because there are no perfect people and no perfect matches. Only human marriages made from two sinners, and that requires forgiveness in spades and forgetfulness in bucket-loads. Forgiveness isn’t forgiving unless it is also letting go. To forgive your spouse means chosing not to bring up past wrongs that have long past been dealt with, for if these are not buried and forgotten, they will come back and haunt us.
The psalmist knew that too when he said “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, who could stand. But with you there is forgiveness.”.
This blue and white cup in front of me, then is my particular reminder to ‘leave’, ‘cleave,’ ‘forgive’ and ‘forget’.