Recently at supper, JJ and I were having a heated discussion, not at each other, but about an acquaintence of ours who left his wife and new daughter and about other people we know who are quietly condoning his behavior. Lyd, sensing our anger but not sure what we were talking about, seemed concerned that we were angry at her. No no, we quickly assured her, we’re not angry at you. “Well, then what are you angry about?” she asked. So, JJ explained to her what had happened in a way that she could understand.
He ended the conversation by saying to her, “Mommy and Daddy will NEVER leave each other. We promised God that we would stay married for the rest of our lives, and we will keep that promise. We will never get a divorce. We will always be here together to take care of you.”
Throughout JJ’s and my marriage, I’ve pondered the importance and seriousness of having promised God that you would stay married forever. JJ and I didn’t just promise each other that we would stay married, we promised God that we would stay married.
When we were planning our wedding service, I remember being struck by the fact that the bride and groom first made promises facing the altar, symbolizing the fact that they are making promises to God. Then the bride and groom turn towards each other, and they make the second set of vows facing one another. At the time we were married, not knowing all that much about liturgical symbolism and being a complete neophyte about worship, I thought this double-vows concept was redundant. However, as my marriage has progressed, and as I’ve learned a whole lot more about worship than I ever could have imagined (thanks to my husband), I’ve gained a deeper appreciation of that symbolic act in the marriage rite.
JJ and I didn’t just make promises to each other that we would love the other one for the rest of our lives, we made those promises to God. And when I say that we promised to love each other, I don’t mean the gooey, mushy feeling of love. No, love is hard work. Like 1 Corinthians 13 says:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
Wow! That’s some serious law in there! In fact, my pastor-husband won’t even use this passage of Scripture for wedding services, because, as he says, “There’s no gospel in it. It’s all law.” But, this portion of the Bible reminds Christians of the kind of love that God shows to us, and so, inspired by God’s love for us, JJ and I try to love to each other in the same way.
JJ and I are not the perfect couple. We still get on each other’s nerves, we still say and do things to each other that we later regret, and we don’t always take the other’s words and actions in the kindest possible way. However, we are absolutely committed to making our marriage work. When times get tough, we remember that we’ve not just made promises to each other, but we promised God that we would love each other, even when the other isn’t very easy to love. We know that God will give us the strength we need to keep that promise, and we know that God freely gives us forgiveness when we fail to keep that promise. God’s willingness to forgive us makes us willing to forgive each other, too.
And it’s another huge motivational boost to know that our little daughters are watching us, basing their lifelong ideas about marriage on the example we daily provide for them. It makes us resolve to do the best job we possibly can at our marriage when our five and a half year old daughter grabs each of us by the hand and emphatically says, “I’m SO GLAD that you’re never going to get a divorce!”