Inside every relationship, there’s a gap. A margin of space where people didn’t quite meet our expectations or failed us with miles to spare. We grow things here. These spaces are like our own personal little gardens of hatred, doubt, or in the rare and most beautiful cases, love. The success and failure of each and every one of our relationships hinge entirely on this particular grove and what we leave in the margins.
There’s a verse in the Bible that says “love always trusts”. I can’t remember a time where I didn’t think that was stupid. Would you “always trust” someone who betrayed you? Who ripped the rug from under you? Someone who turned their back on you when you really needed them?
You probably wouldn’t, but there’s wisdom there we often miss at first glance. That verse isn’t talking about being naive or flippant. It’s not suggesting we perform trust falls with arms tied behind our backs, or give bartending jobs to family members who battle addiction. No, this verse speaks specifically to our margins, and the narratives we recount when we survey all that empty space.
We should have known better. We should never have trusted them. We just knew they weren’t going to do what they said they’d do. There are a million things we tell ourselves when we look out into that expanse. We leave all our disappointment, our condemnation, and our resentment in the space between us and our friends and let destruction grow up big and strong until we can’t even see each other anymore. We sit high on our expectations and look down at our friends, our family members, our spouses and say “You’re supposed to be here, but look how you’ve failed me. I knew you would.”
I knew you would. Doesn’t sound too unlike something we’ve all said before, does it? But what does it say? It says we think our friends are disappointments. It says we don’t think our sisters are worth believing in. It says we don’t think the men in our life are worth hoping for. Eventually, we get to a point where we won’t even have to say it anymore, because that garden of ours? It blooms. And it doesn’t take a botanist to differentiate a weed from a rose, belief from doubt, or life from death.
Every time we translate our circumstances we are sowing seeds: The real reason he didn’t call me back is because he’s cheating. Thorns. She meant that sarcastically, she’s always trying to make me look stupid. Poison. We choose what we plant. But might I suggest an alternative to the usual walls of doubt we build to protect ourselves? Might I suggest grace?
What would it do to our relationships if we believed in people? What if we told them in so many words, “I believe you’re honest, and kind, and considerate – I believe you”? What if we were expecting them to do great, and were only surprised if they proved us wrong? How small might our margins become if instead of starving them of our love, we fed them?
We have to decide to trust. To take the “I locked my keys in my car” story at face value, and believe them. Not because we’re pushovers, but because we’re nurturers. We don’t stare the truth in the face and take the lie because it makes us feel better, but in those places where we have to take our best friend’s word for it, we take her word for it. We are the multipliers, so let love live.
You and I have to decide to leave grace in the margins where people forgot to rise to the occasion. Otherwise, we’ll grow a forest of hatred between us, too thick to journey through. Otherwise, we abandon all hope that we’ll be shown forgiveness when forgiveness is what we need most.
Grace is the invitation we are all dying to receive so we can finally –perhaps for the last time – disarm ourselves and take a step closer. It is the the warm and weightless sensation that comes with being known and chosen at the same time. There is no safer place to let down your guard than on the very soil where love was carefully, meticulously, painstakingly cultivated; and we owe that, not just to our friends, but ourselves. We were made for grace, and grace was made for us.