Spring is finally here, and engaged couples all over the globe are in the final throes of planning their summer weddings. Hopefully those couples have given more thought to the lifelong commitment of marriage than they have to the details of their wedding day. There is, however, one detail of that special day that is definitely worthy of special consideration—the marriage vows. Wedding vows contain the promises of a covenant intended to last a lifetime. They are the vows of faithfulness and the promise to stick it out through thick and thin. So for those of you who have been married for some time–have you given any thought to how you are holding up your end of your marriage covenant? Let’s take an honest look.
Taken from the “Book of Common Prayer” published in England in 1549, the most traditional and widely recognized marriage vows are as follows:
“I take this Man/Woman to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, forsaking all others, till death us do part.
To Have and To Hold…what exactly does this mean? To have and to hold encompasses the emotional, spiritual and physical connection we are to share with our spouse. We are promising to make ourselves available to our spouse–not only sexually, but emotionally, mentally and spiritually as well. And our spouse promises to the same for us. The key to keeping this promise is to be available. At the risk of raising eyebrows, I encourage you to make making love in your marriage a high priority. This physical connection does wonderful things for the emotional health of your marriage. If you are not pursuing and sharing intimacy with your spouse emotionally, sexually, mentally, and spiritually, you can choose to begin today. You promised.
For Better or Worse. This promise couldn’t be clearer. It means just what it says. In John 16: 33 Jesus tells us; “In this life, you will have trouble….” If we are married long enough, we will most likely experience the death of someone we love, the loss of a job, an empty nest or any number of other challenges. There is a comfort found in knowing we have a partner to share life’s struggles. We do not have to go them alone. My husband and I have mourned the loss of both my parents within months of each other, and the loss of our sweet twenty-three year old daughter-in-law to a drunk driver. We have experienced joy and pain…the absolute better and the absolute worse. Yet through it all we found great comfort in the love of God and in each other. Give thanks in the good times and hold tight to each other when the seas are the roughest. You promised.
For richer or poorer. It is common knowledge that money problems are a big factor in the high divorce rate today. Through the years there can be many causes for financial instability; it is just a part of life. However, our lack of trust in God with our finances, including tithing, and an overall lack of stewardship is often the cause of many financial woes for the Christian couple. Having an abundance of money is not a guarantee of a happy life, and some of the happiest people I know live within their means and give generously when able. Trust God and honor him in your finances. And be ready to forgive if your spouse makes a mistake. You promised.
In sickness and in health. Can you be counted on to be there for your spouse when they are sick? What if they are suffering with an addiction, depression, chronic fatigue or Alzheimer’s? As individuals we can take steps to stay healthy, but we are not invincible, and any type of illness can stress a relationship. Sickness can raise fear and insecurity, causing some to withdraw emotionally. So what is the best way to honor this vow? Be present. Pray together out loud and often. Make your love and commitment to your spouse that healing balm they need. You promised.
To Love and to Cherish…Forsaking All Others. This is my personal favorite. Don’t we all expect to be loved and cherished on our wedding day? Isn’t faithfulness an expectation we hold dear from that day forward? According to the current divorce rate within the church, it is easy to see that Christian couples are struggling to keep this promise. Infidelity is on the rise among Christian couples, and the “I” centered worldly message is all but undermining the gospel message of “love one another, as Christ has loved you.” We are not called to love each other until we feel bored, unheard, misunderstood, or are let down. We are called to love, cherish, and be faithful. Do not waste time over difficult issues; instead learn to excel at forgiveness. Nourish and protect your marriage. You promised.
Till Death Us Do Part. Jesus said: “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” Matthew 22:30. This is it folks! Once you or your spouse has been called home, there will be no more chances to make amends, make love, hold hands, or cherish one another. As I mentioned earlier, my son’s wife died after only three years of marriage. It was painful to watch my son grieve his tremendous loss, and to hear him say he wished that he could tell his wife he loved her just one more time. Don’t take your marriage for granted…it is a gift from God that He uses to refine you and and make you holy. You can have a happy marriage with God at the center of it. He can see you through until death parts you. Remember that… You promised.
“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.” Eph. 5:1-2 The Message