42. Roses Don’t Bloom Better on the Other Side of the Fence

42. Roses Don’t Bloom Better on the Other Side of the Fence

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

Roses Don’t Bloom Better on the Other Side of the Fence

He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.

~George Herbert

My husband had broken my heart. He and a female coworker had been spending too much time working together, and work time had gradually become play time. I’d had my suspicions that they seemed to enjoy each other’s company a little too much. Rick insisted they were just friends. I finally discovered how truly close they were when I had to borrow his cell phone to make a call and found several flirtatious texts.

“She means nothing to me, but I’m so sorry,” Rick replied, devastated, when confronted. “It started out harmless, got carried away a little, it was wrong… really I’m so, so sorry… I’ll stay away from her… I love you….”

How could he have allowed himself to play with fire, getting that close to another woman instead of valuing what he had with me, and worst of all lying about it? What else didn’t I know after sticking beside him for twenty years? Was our relationship worth saving when I could barely stand to look at him for betraying my trust?

With my four children in school, I had just started volunteering with the true love of my life, horses. There was a Christian youth camp with sixty horses nearby that needed all the help it could get, so I began showing up twice a week to help with chores to earn riding privileges. Now that the rug had been pulled out from under me in my personal life, it was a welcome escape to leave a home that didn’t feel like a home anymore and spend the day surrounded by animals that provided me with unlimited, unconditional love. On top of that, one of my coworkers provided me with encouragement and lots of laughs to replace the insecurity and tears.

I worked with him side by side, feeding, grooming, and cleaning. He was always patient, always appreciative, always finding the funny side of things at a time when that was exactly what I needed.

When I’d return home in the evening, Rick and I would tiptoe around each other, he embarrassed at what he had done and me seething about it. When we’d try to talk about what went wrong, what exactly happened, what we were going to do about it, it always ended either in shouting matches, tears, or cold shoulders on both sides.

The ranch was my escape. When at the ranch, Coworker and I had coffee breaks together, ran errands, and fixed fences.

“Here’s a flower for you,” he said, smiling at me as I left the barn one day. He had beautiful, knockout red rose bushes growing in front of his office door, and while picking off dead blooms he had plucked off a perfect one for me. His smile was innocent enough, but something in me flickered as I accepted it. It had been quite a while since Rick had given me anything but grief. I dug out my rose bowl when I got home and placed the flower inside. Every time I looked at it I thought of Coworker and looked forward to seeing him and his horses again.

Once a week I would cut a rose or two from the barn’s bushes to replace the first one. It helped me hang on to my utopia from one volunteer day to the next. For his part, Coworker treated me like a sister, close but not too close. He was happily married, twenty years and counting, just like I thought I was until I wasn’t. But brotherly love was better than nothing at all.

I finally abandoned this slippery slope one morning when Coworker and I loaded the hay wagon from the loft. The hay barn was deserted. He was on top of the wagon where he placed the last hay bale, then went to climb down but missed a step and landed awkwardly beside me. I reached out to help him balance and he grabbed onto my arm to keep from falling. For just a second, we were suspended in time. In that instant I knew how Rick had felt when he got too close to his coworker and how easy it was to get swept up in the moment. We’re all just one decision away from disaster. I could either decide to make Rick suffer or I could learn from his mistakes, forgive him and decide this would go no further.

“Whew, I could have hurt myself!” Like a good husband should, Coworker laughed off whatever had just happened and jumped on the tractor. I climbed onto the back.

“With all your ministry work, do you do marriage counseling?” I asked suddenly, staring off into the field.

“I have in the past,” he answered slowly, choosing his words carefully. “Not with friends though. I recommend it, because if someone needs help they should get it.”

Rick and I did start counseling sessions with our pastor, started studying marriage manuals together, started sincerely and humbly praying together. We both learned to forgive, to leave the past in the past and go on to a new beginning with renewed respect for each other.

And totally without my prompting, Rick did something unexpected: he planted knockout red rose bushes all along the front of our house. Now once a week I cut off a rose from those bushes and put it in my rose bowl. A bright red rose from my husband to me. Love can bloom forever if we weather the storms.

~Jane Smith

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