Marriage is not for the faint-hearted; it is for the strong-hearted. But more than just strong-hearted, marriage is for the big-hearted.
Marriage is not only filled with pleasurable experiences, but it can also be filled with unpleasant experiences. Thus, it requires a big heart to accommodate all these experiences. The bigger, the better.
Gayle Haggard has a big heart. When her famous husband, Ted Haggard, fell from grace, she stayed by his side. She accepted him and moved on with their lives. When asked by a reporter why she stayed, she responded (I paraphrase), “Because he is more than his failures and weaknesses.” I admire her strong and big heart knowing that what she had to put up with were his sexual sins and drug use, and all the lies and hypocrisies that came with these weaknesses.
There are of course things about our spouses that we like, but there are also things about our spouses that we do not like. It is one thing to accommodate things that we do not like, but it is another thing to accept their failures and weaknesses. To see our spouses more than their failures and weaknesses, we must have not only a strong and a big heart of love, but also a tender one—a forgiving heart.
In his book The Art of Forgiving, Lewis Smedes shares his take on the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. In case we are wondering why the father in the story can so readily forgive his prodigal son when he returns home, Smedes explains that long before his son shows up at the door, he has already forgiven his son. That is the reason he can throw a party for his son despite his past actions.
Marriage is not only for the strong-and-big-hearted, but it is also for the tender-hearted, so tender that it forgives, not easily but readily. We, who are married, must be ready to forgive, again and again.