Of course, that wasn't true. The stresses of winter do eventually give way to spring. And with proper pruning and tender loving care, a plant that looks dead can bloom again. We were passionately in love when we married, and with the pruning of forgiveness, love blossomed again, passionate as ever; actually, even more so.

It is strange to look back at those dark times and try to figure them out. Part of it was our own fault: we put a lot of stress on ourselves through our own ambitions, tendency to take on too much, and our pig-headed determination to see our expectations realized. But part of it was circumstances: investments that went belly up, jobs that were lost, the illnesses and deaths of loved ones. Put simply, there were lessons about life that we had to learn: accepting and valuing each other for who and what each of us was, not what we, through the rose-colored glasses of early romance, imagined that the other was going to be; being willing to apologize and ask forgiveness whether it was our turn or not; getting up and dusting ourselves off when fortune didn't smile or failure knocked us smack on our backsides, and by God's grace embarking on the painful business of starting all over from scratch when all around us there were othe rs whose lives seemed so much less troubled or when life seemed unfair.

Running a marathon has some lessons for marriage. No matter how easy things are in the beginning, there are going to be difficult periods. But when those times come, if you keep going through the pain, you and those who love and depend on you will drink deeply from the cup of satisfaction that only those who cross the finish line can know.

January 2, 2010

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Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse is a Senior Fellow of Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye Institute. She writes about contemporary issues that affect women, family, religion and culture in her regular column "Dot.Commentary."