When my partner and I were preparing for the arrival of our twins, we made a pact. For the first two weeks, we would suffer from selective amnesia. If things got tough (which they invariably did) and one of us was short-tempered with the other one, or said something unkind, then we would apologize, forgive and MOVE ON. For weeks before their birth we jokingly called this "two weeks notice."
In that first 48 hours home when the twins cried again within 30 minutes of their last feeding and my beloved slept peacefully through it, I said something best not put into print. The next morning as we huddled over our coffee I looked up and said, "I am sorry for what I said."
"I don't know what you are talking about," she responded.
"You know, around 3 am when they were crying..." I nudged.
"I said, 'I don't know what you are talking about," she smiled.
Two weeks notice. I'd almost forgotten myself!
Anyone who has suffered from sleep deprivation knows that it will bring to the surface your least attractive qualities and most inward thoughts. Perhaps, this is why it is used as a form of torture. As it would happen in those two weeks there were moments of lost tempers as we feared losing our minds to 45 minute intervals of sleep. At about day 13, we realized our naivete.
So, we extended our two weeks notice for a week.
And then another.
We are now in two months notice.
There is something to be said for long processing after serious injury or misunderstanding in a relationship. There is most definitely a place (and need) for the complex process of forgiveness. And there is desperate importance in not forgetting or forgiving in the context of continued abuse.
But is there also space to understand each other beyond the contractual negotiation into covenantal behavior? I understand contractual behavior to be "you said you would do this, I will therefore do that." Covenantal behavior would be "I see you in the context of a larger promise of who are as well as who you are becoming." Giving each other freedom to be not only who we are but also who we might become is sometimes called grace. As humanists with a 21st century mindset, the grace we receive is ultimately given by human hearts-our own and those with whom we covenant.
Of course, grace must not only be given but also willingly received.
She repeated a third time, "I don't know what you are talking about."
"Oh right," I said.
I took a bite of my toast.
After all, we'd already said grace.