Walter and Thanne Wangerin do a lot of forgiving, but not nearly as much as they used to.
Years ago, Walter was consumed by the responsibilities of a demanding ministry; and Thanne wondered whether her husband even remembered he had a wife. One night Walter woke up in an empty bed. He went looking for Thanne, who was curled up on the sofa with tears streaming down her face. When he found her, all she said was "Don't touch me."
Thanne had been quietly withering, feeling abandoned by Walter as she cared for their four young children. She also was struggling to address the needs of their extended family. Meanwhile, Walter devoted longer hours to his work-failing to notice the burdens weighing down his wife. Until he found her that night on the sofa, so distraught she refused to be touched.
Thanne's anger and pain were deeply rooted, and Walter feared he had doomed their marriage to years of emptiness. But he began to set aside time and energy for his wife, and Thanne worked out a freeing balance in their life together. These efforts, along with the giving and receiving of forgiveness, made it possible for them to start over.
Today, after 28 years of marriage, the Wangerins find their life has been far from empty. A few years ago they moved to northern Indiana, where Walter is a professor and writer-in-residence at Valparaiso University. (His most recent book is The Book of God: The Bible as a Novel [Zondervan].) Now that their children are grown, Thanne plans to return to graduate school. In a recent interview, they shared the lessons they have learned about forgiveness and new beginnings.1