I couldn’t have been more than sixteen when a friend I deeply admired shared the following with me: “It takes a lot to make me mad, but once you’ve made me mad, it might take a lifetime for me to forgive and forget. And I may never really forget.”

If she feels this way, it must not be possible to forgive and forget, I reasoned. Unknowingly, I instilled that perspective deep into the heart of my own internal value system. It took many years before I would hear a story of such love and forgiveness that it would overwrite the core of my own value system. The following is Caroline’s story, the story that changed my life.

Broken Dreams

It was the night before Christmas. A soft blanket of snow had just begun to cover the earth when Caroline accidentally uncovered a secret that would forever change her life: Kurt, her beloved husband of twenty-six years, had been unfaithful.

Devastated by his deception, Caroline curled up in a fetal position in a corner of their bedroom floor. In the living room, Kurt led their four children through the motions of their Christmas Eve traditions, the children aware that something was terribly wrong.

Plotting her righteous revenge, Caroline was already planning a divorce. Then, hoping she would awaken from what was only a bad dream, muffled sounds of her children’s cries jolted her back to reality. It was then she sensed a still, small voice “whispering” to her heart. Her body stiffened. In a moment of defiance, Caroline hoped it wasn’t God. She was too angry for divine intervention. After all, she wasn’t the one who had strayed from God or marriage. And just where was He while Kurt strayed? No, Caroline did not want that “nudging” to be from the Father she felt had forgotten her. Let Him work on Kurt. He was the one in need of the divine intervention.

As much as Caroline tried to ignore that still, small voice, she could not. Was God trying to get her attention? It had to be Him, because the thoughts in her heart were all about love and forgiveness. She, by her own admission, was incapable of initiating any thoughts of forgiveness. Revenge, rather than reconciliation, consumed her heart tonight.

Caroline, the small voice seemed to whisper, you hold the pen of life in your hand. It is you and only you who must write the words to this script, you who will create an ending to this story.

Wrapping a worn afghan around her shoulders, wave after wave of grief washed over her. She fought to remember exactly when she and the man she loved became two strangers living under one roof. Trembling harder with each incoming set of sobs, Caroline wondered: Is this what is to become of us now? Nothing more than a mediocre marriage shattered by the unthinkable?

Hadn’t she sensed a hollow silence between them? That they had grown indifferent to each other? Or even that, for quite some time, her husband had tried in vain to re-create the magic that once existed between them?

“I miss us, Caroline,” Kurt had confided in her some time ago. “I miss spending time together. We used to walk and talk for hours on the trail, and it was so easy to laugh with you. That’s my first memory of you — seeing you with your head thrown back and laughing — from across the room in the campus coffee shop. Now, it seems the kids and the girls at your office have taken my place.”

Trying to force the memory of Kurt’s words from her mind was useless. Instead, truth tore at her heart. She had been too busy as a pharmaceutical rep and as mother tending to the needs of four children to pay much attention to her husband. As though he were little more than an afterthought, she gave to Kurt only what she had left at the end of each day. And that, she realized, had been very little.

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When she’d accepted the pharmaceutical position five years earlier, she’d had the best of intentions. She had been confident that, with her degree and exceptional organizational skills, she could manage a family and a demanding career. I’ve worked hard for this, she had reasoned. And the additional income had provided the family with those perks they had grown to expect. After all, it was all about family, wasn’t it?

Love Can Find a Way

Still curled up on that hard, cold floor, Caroline faced a hard, cold reality: she’d ignored nearly all of Kurt’s basic needs — for years. And she’d sent him straight into the arms of a woman who was more than willing to provide the emotional and physical intimacy she’d withheld. She was as much to blame as her husband.

In the wee hours of the morning, she gathered the courage to summon Kurt. Kneeling on the floor beside her with his head bowed in her lap, he tearfully begged for his wife’s forgiveness.

In less than an hour, Christmas morning would dawn. Now nestled in an overstuffed easy chair by the Christmas tree, sipping a cup of herbal tea, Caroline thought of her children. If she chose to, she could give her family the gift they wanted most, the gift of a future together.

So . . . it all comes down to this, she reasoned. I hold the pen, and I’m the one who writes the script. Why is it always the one who is hurt the most who has to give the most? Caroline grappled.

In what would be the most powerful moment of their marriage, Caroline chose to forgive her husband. Realizing the journey ahead would be filled with many challenges, she opted to embrace the future rather than cling to the past. While the pain from Kurt’s unfaithfulness was almost more than she could bear, she knew that, without forgiveness, bitterness is all they would have to show for a lifetime of love.

So, on the tattered pages of her husband’s heart, she inscribed the words, I forgive you. She trusted that God, the Father of forgiveness, would guide her to write the rest.

Will you write, I forgive you, on the pages of your husband’s heart?

Writing Your Legacy
How would you respond today if God placed the “pen of life” in your hand and asked you to write the rest of your life’s story? Would you allow an unforgiving heart to determine the ending to your script? How will the ending to your story read?

Judy Carden, author of God Things Come in Small Packages, is a best-selling author, feature writer, and former syndicated columnist. Judy has been speaking at seminars, churches, schools, and civic and business groups for nearly a decade. Currently, Judy is a speaker for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers).

Taken from What Husbands Need © 2006 by Judy Carden. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.”