Big Guy and I recently traveled to a planning retreat for the Christian Marriage Bloggers Association. (Thank you, Tom and Debi, for welcoming us into your home and provide such thoughtful hospitality!)
We drove from Wisconsin to North Carolina so we could enjoy the beautiful scenery and have some time to ourselves. As a woman who grew up in the Midwest and still lives there, I’ve found great beauty in the flat landscape—but I was still excited that I would see mountains.
On the Road Less Traveled
On our way to the cabin, we decided to visit a national park. Big Guy programmed the destination into his GPS, and away we went.
I love navigating by map. Usually I plot a route myself even though we will use the GPS. This time I did not. I had the atlas in front of me, but I was too captivated by the beauty of the mountains to use it.
My husband’s GPS has proven accurate and often guides us away from traffic jams. We’ve occasionally found ourselves on alternate routes that ended up saving us a great deal of time—so we didn’t think much of it when it seemed that we were heading to the edge of town rather than through it. I mentioned that it didn’t look right, but I wasn’t worried because the GPS hadn’t let us down in the past.
The side streets led to a road heading out of town, which turned into a poorly maintained two-lane (more like 1 ½-lane) that began to wind its way up a mountain. The road didn’t look like it was used much. (The road less traveled might be great in literature and in theory, but in reality it’s full of bumps and weeds and drop-offs.)
Although we believed the GPS was taking us a back route, it was more “back route” than we would’ve wanted. The road was bumpy, and there were no guard rails protecting us as we made the constant turns. We began to see signs against the side of the road, cautioning us that the wooded areas were private property. I thought, If GPS has brought other people up this way, I’d put signs up, too.
The road narrowed even more as it wound its way up the mountain, back and forth.
According to the GPS, the road we were on had a name that sounded like it was headed to a public area. At some point, though, we realized the GPS was taking us in the wrong direction.
We realized that we hadn’t seen even a single sign for our destination. Even the back route to a national park should have had some signage.
Unfortunately, there was no place to turn around. We had no choice but to keep going until we could find a spot where we could recalculate our route and reverse ourselves.
Suddenly we found ourselves in a beautiful clearing. The road was even, level, and wide. We saw no people, but there were several vehicles parked at a small building.
Off to the side was an absolutely beautiful unspoiled view of mountains.
Big Guy pulled over so I could get out to stretch my legs, catch my breath (all that constant gasping and trying not to freak out about no guard rails had done a number on me), and take some pictures.
A vehicle pulled up behind us. The person behind the wheel informed us that we were trespassing, that the No Trespassing signs had referred to both the woods and the road (oops), that we were nowhere near our destination, and that we needed to leave. Immediately.
Before I’d had a chance to fully absorb the beauty of the location, we had to leave it.
Big Guy and I got back into our car, turned around, and headed back down the mountain.
The bumps, turns, and lack of guard rails were even worse on the way down than they’d been on the way up.
I don’t like breaking the rules, and I was upset that we’d been led astray by the GPS. Knowing what the road was like, I began to worry about what would happen if we met a vehicle that was going up. Where other roads might have a shoulder to give a little extra space, this road had a drop-off.
Then I realized—there were homes on this mountain road—homes with driveways that we probably could’ve used to turn around. They just hadn’t registered when we were on the way up.
As much as I just wanted to be done and off the mountain, we had to proceed slowly and safely so we didn’t crash.
If Big Guy had been alone, we probably would’ve driven faster than he did. Because he didn’t want to terrify me or make me carsick, he drove carefully and patiently.
At that point, I was oblivious to the beauty of the mountain outside the car. All that mattered to me was what was happening inside the car.
Forgive Us Our Trespasses . . .
Marriage sometimes is like our mountain-sized misadventure.
It’s easy to get lost. We forget to check the Book for directions, letting the world tell us where we should go. We think we’re taking a faster route or that how we do something doesn’t matter. We take a short cut on kindness or love so we can finish more quickly.
We see warning signs but don’t fully think through what they might mean. Or we fail to notice that we aren’t seeing the important signs that we should be.
We get twisted around on a bumpy, treacherous, seemingly endless road. We can’t see where to turn around, so we just keep going on, deeper and deeper, hoping to get to a spot where we can recalculate and turn around.
When we recognize that we have trespassed, the right thing to do is to repent, to go back, to confess, and to get back onto God’s path.
It isn’t always a quick or easy process. We sometimes have to carefully extract ourselves from a situation so we don’t damage anyone in the process. We must slowly unwind a web we’ve spun in order to get back to where we need to be.
We may want to move quickly, but we need to be patient with our spouse. If a spouse has been sinned against for a long time, it’s going to take a while to believe that the reversal of direction is real and that the marriage is a safe place.
Our Shared Story
I don’t like breaking rules, and I felt embarrassed that we had trespassed.
In the marriage we used to have, I would have been furious with Big Guy for using the GPS and for not turning around when I mentioned it didn’t look right. I would have glossed over the fact that I hadn’t even bothered to look in the atlas to confirm our route. I would have ignored the fact that I was too captivated by the beauty of the mountains to even care much where we were going or how we were getting there.
Our trespassing would have been made even worse by the way I would have treated my husband. It would have become something that further divided us.
Handling the trespass with love and kindness made a difference. The shared experience united us rather than divided us.
When my marriage involves a trespass—mine, my husband’s, or ours—I have a choice. It is tempting to heap blame on my husband so I don’t have to feel bad about myself or my own actions. (The temptation is as old as Adam, right?)
I could choose to distance myself from my husband and add a wedge between us.
Or, I can choose to travel with my husband away from the sin, even if we move more slowly than I want. Even if I’m embarrassed.
It is better to own my contributions to our circumstances and to refrain from making things worse for my husband when he has recognized his share.
At a certain point, I have to decide that what matters most is what is happening inside our marriage, not what is going on outside it.
The sharing of the journey away from our sins is part of what unites us as a married couple. It gives us a common landscape in our shared story.
Most of our trespasses are unintentional—but we can still be intentional in how we handle them.
How do you deal with trespasses in your marriage?