Righting Respect: Two Months.
Back in June, my cousin gave me a book called “Love and Respect.” I read about 2 chapters, and I wanted to throw it across the room. It frustrated me – challenged me – suggested that like love is unconditional, so is respect.
At this point in our relationship, we were not yet married – we had just gotten engaged, and we were insane with Para renovations and Eric photographing weddings. I was between living spaces, having just finished the Fellows program, and I was trying to decide where I would be working next year, while beginning the plans for a wedding to come in December. I was still a child in some ways – financially dependent on my parents, beginning to live by myself in a different city for the first time, never having been responsible for my health insurance, car insurance or most things – always having someone else older and more responsible than me, telling me what to do. But now, I was it. I was the older person…
Eric was gone most almost every weekend, sometimes for a week for various photography shoots; during the rest of the time, we were at Para renovating from early morning to late into the night.
The longer time went on, the more frustrated I got because none of our time was being spent preparing for what would be the most intense and important decision of our lives – marriage. I had envisioned a leisurely time of reading, talking, meditating, counseling, personality assessment and enjoying each other; but, what was happening was exactly the opposite. Very little reading, talking mostly about coffee and other people’s weddings, rushed and crammed counseling sessions between everything, and frustration at each other for being so busy and worn out. We sinned against each other with our frustration and lack of self-control; we struggled a lot.
From this jumping point, we began our marriage.
Doing our best to put the engagement period behind us, we began to lean heavily on the Lord’s wisdom on how to love each other, how to sacrifice, how to be selfless and tender, regardless of past frustrations.
For me, it has been a terrible struggle – the feelings of respect just refused to follow the attempted actions of respect; in fact, the more I tried to do nice things the more resentful I felt.
My cousin read me this beautiful excerpt from “This Momentary Marriage” by John Piper, talking about how eventually, in marriage, all you can see are the cow pies. And this was true – cow pies, everywhere. In Eric, in myself – like a stank field of manure.
It has been uphill, we are close to the vantage point, looking down over the last two months with a tired sense of satisfaction – love.
But, the greatest thing I learned, the underlying frustration of “unconditional respect” is forgiving the person for that which you feel you cannot respect him.
The reason, the problem, why I could not respect Eric is because I had not forgiven him; for being busy, for lacking self-control, for one and a million different reasons that piled upon each other. Trying to respect someone in spite of forgiveness is impossible. I came to realize that the reason the book frustrated me so much is because the premise, the foundation was missing (at least in the first two chapters); I must forgive in order to respect.
I must not just “let go” or “ignore” or “look past” the anger I feel, or the annoying things we do to each other – but I must forgive them. I must forgive him for not knowing me fully enough to read my mind about picking up clothes on the floor, forgive him for being late, forgive him for not wording a sentence perfectly, forgive him for not wanting to read as much as me, forgive him for stepping on my idols, forgive him for being a different type of learner than I am – that is to say, stop holding it against him. Stop not respecting him.
Forgiveness is a condition of the heart, to say – I am broken, I am no better, I have compassion, I have empathy, I reach out to you and walk in your shoes; Christ has done that for me.
Another way of saying “love keeps no record of wrongs” is to say – love forgives; that is to say, Love respects.