Remember Your Vows

People tend to rush into marriage for the wrong reasons.  Perhaps there is a baby on the way.  Perhaps they are young and see marriage as a way to “get out” and gain independence.  Maybe they truly are in love and just don’t want to wait.   For whatever the reason, marriage is a serious decision that you are making, not just for financial and legal reasons, but in the eyes of God as well.  The commitment you are making is not only to your wife, but also to God.  When you share those marriage vows, you are vowing before God and man your promises.

There are many variations of vows given and many will even write their own.  I thought it would be interesting here to take a look at the traditional marriage vow given in most American Christian churches and break it down to take a look at what it means.  With some variations and minor changes over time, the basic vow has stayed pretty close to the same for centuries and goes something like this:

I,_____, take you, ____, to be my wife (or husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.

There is quite a bit going on in those few words and many of us have said those very words, without understanding the meaning behind them.  I in fact, hadn’t thought too deeply about the words I spoke, until I started to research it for this post.  

I, ____, take you, ____, to be my wife

Here is where we state our commitment.  “I Jason, take you, Holly, to be my wife.”  For me, I was entering into the biggest commitment I had every made up to that point, and probably one of the biggest since.  I think we should all stop right here for a moment and think of the enormity of that commitment.  When we look at what the Bible says about our responsibility as men entering into this contract, the enormity of what that commitment means becomes evident.

In Ephesians 5:25, we read, “And you husbands must love your wives with the same love that Christ showed the church.  He gave up his life for her…

Now there’s a high bar to set.  We are to love our wives like Jesus Christ loved the church…is that even possible?  And men, we know that Christ gave up his life for the church, for us…..are we willing to do the same for our wives?

In Genesis 2:24, we read, “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”  What does this mean?  Well I’ve found it to be true, that little can affect my wife without it affecting me.  When she is down, I feel down.  When she’s happy, I’m happier.  If someone wrongs her, I feel slighted as well.  We have come to anticipate each other’s needs and we help each other become all that Christ wants us to be.  I believe my wife was created just for me and I for her.  We are two parts to a whole, spiritually, mentally and sexually.  When we come together, we are made whole.

The Bible goes on and on about the importance of marriage and the commitment made.  It is not to be taken lightly.

…to have and to hold from this day forward…

This is forever folks.  We make this vow to become as one, forever.  We don’t get to quit when we get bored.  We don’t get to walk away when things get tough.  I promised my wife I would keep this vow from this day forward.  There are no guarantees that marriage will be easy.

In Hebrews 13:5, we read God’s promise, “I will never fail you.  I will never forsake you.”  God promises us that he will be with us always.  Despite all the terrible things God’s children have done throughout the Bible, he is always there for them.  Despite all that we have sinned, God is there with us.  He never leaves us.  

Should we be any different with our wives?  We are joined as one, how can we leave?  We would as soon cut off my hand when it does something unwholesome.  Would we do that?  Of course not, we should do no different with our wives.

…for better, for worse…

Oh there will be good days and there will be bad days.  There will be days when you roll over in bed and look at your wife and wonder how did I get so lucky?  Then there will be days when you roll over and you wonder what the heck did I get myself into.  

There are many uphill climbs that a couple must face throughout their marriage.  You’ll reach a peak and life has a way of knocking you back down again.  There you have two options, 1) you can run away and hide and let your wife deal with it herself, or 2) we can pick each other up, hold hands and head back up that hill together.  

The promise of for better or worse, is a commitment by my wife and I to each other, that when our marriage or our family is attacked from outside the marriage by some other force, whatever it may be….we will rise up hand-in-hand, together to take on whatever the issue is.  And when it’s the better part of it….we will bask hand-in-hand in the glory of God’s blessings. Thankful that we have a friend, a partner to share the joy of life with.

….for richer, for poorer….

It seems like it always come back to finances.   Money problems are one of the biggest causes of divorce we see.  It’s no wonder this is specifically pointed out in the marriage vows.   Every couple will go through financial troubles, perhaps early on in the marriage or maybe not until later in life when illness strikes and takes away so many of the resources you have saved up.

Regardless of the the nature of the financial pitfall, the important thing to remember is that you’re in this together. My wife and I have gone through many ups and downs financially.  We’ve been at the top where we’ve brought in a lot of money and we’ve fallen to the pits where we weren’t sure if we could feed our family, let alone keep our house and pay the bills.  

When you are in the depths of financial despair, it becomes easy to blame the other partner.  Perhaps you feel they are spending too much of your hard-earned money.  Or perhaps they aren’t contributing their share to the family coffers.  It is very easy for resentment to set in, and when that begins to happen, bitterness soon follows, then comes anger and before you know it every moment is spent in arguments over the money and you miss sight that you are partners.  You forget that you’re joined as one and nothing can affect the one without affecting the other.

My wife and I have been blessed that she has been able to stay at home with the children while I worked and brought in the income for the family.  There have been some rough patches where that second income would have been nice to have.  But I never once, blamed her for not working outside the home.  She supported me in all of my decisions and endeavours over the years and we always remembered, that we were stronger working together (with God) to solve our problems than we would be working apart.

….in sickness and in health….

Yep there’s that nasty word sickness.  That is something I never want to think about, yet as I get older, it’s something that is becoming more real that we will end up having to face sooner or later.

My parents have been married for over 50 years.  My mom has had breast cancer (30+ year survivor), my father has had open heart surgery.  They have had multiple health issues throughout their long marriage, often putting not only physical and emotional stress on their marriage, but financial stress as well.  

Not that it has been easy, but they have taken this part of the vow to heart.  They loved each other before, during and after each episode and I believe each time, their love grew stronger.  Now in their retired years, they have found that despite their many doctor visits, their many medications that they take and the times when they are just not feeling well….their love has not changed, nor has the commitment that they made to each other those many years ago.

…to love and to cherish…

Each day that goes by, I love my wife more than I did the day before.  I cherish the time we spend together and I hate the time apart.  No we are not constantly together, even when we are in the same room, but just knowing that she is near, brings joy to my heart.

When we go through difficult times, I often find that my love for her grows even stronger.  I know that for her, sometimes the easy way out would be to give up and run away and leave all the problems behind.  But I know that her love for me (and our family) is so strong that it is not even an option.  She took this part of the vow very seriously.  

I too, think this may be one of the most important parts of the vow.  We are called to love and cherish our wives by God throughout the scriptures.  Everything I do in life, is a by product of my love for her.  

…till death do us part.

Again, a reminder that this is forever.  We vow to spend the rest of our lives together.  And when death takes us and we come together in heaven once more we will be together.  

Recent statistics I’ve read show that nearly half of all marriages end in divorce.  They never get to test this last part of the vow.    My wife and I have made a promise to ourselves that we are in this for the long haul.  Divorce is not an option.  We are in it until death do us part.  

“For I hate divorce!” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “It is as cruel as putting on a victim’s bloodstained coat,” says the Lord Almighty, “So guard yourself; always remain loyal to your wife.”  – Malachi 2:16 



A Significant Marriage

The sermon series that our church has been going through over the last few weeks is entitled:  A Questionable Life:  Do our lives make others ask why?  It’s based off a simple verse in 1 Peter.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  – 1 Peter 3:15

This week, the topic was “Have a weird marriage.”  Right off my wife and I looked at each other and asked if they were talking about us.  I want to recap and expand on the sermon as it really got me thinking about my marriage and how the relationship with my wife is seen by my children and others.

Nowadays, the idea of staying married for a lifetime is becoming less the norm than it was in the previous generation.  We see so many marriages fail within ten years that our children are learning that it’s OK to get married, have some kids and then when you’re bored with each other, feel free to move on to the next relationship.   The days of long term marriage is fading.  My wife and I have been married for 22 years and among my family, circle of friends and acquaintances, that is a long time.

We were at a wedding this past spring where they had the marriage dance (or whatever they call it) where all the married couples were invited onto the dance floor.  After a few moments the DJ announced, “Those that were married today, please leave the dance floor.”  After a few more moments, “Those that have been married for less than 5 years, please leave the dance floor.”  This continued on until when the time came for my wife and I to leave there were only three couples left.   My parents ended up “winning” by being married for 56 years.  What I learned from that was:

  1. I want what those three couples that were still on the floor after we left had.  When looking at those couples, you could see they were not only husband and wife, but indeed best friends.  My wife is my best friend and we’ve been together for 25 years in total and I hope to become even closer to her as we move into the second half of our lives.
  2. I am somewhat saddened by the fact that there were only three left.  And many that had left the floor before my wife and I were much older and on their second marriage.  I do remember that God hates divorce, but loves divorced people.

We are called to have more than just great marriages, we are called to have significant marriages.  A significant marriage is more than just staying together and not hating each other, it’s about an example that the younger generation can see about how marriage works and how God’s love shows through in your marriage.   I once had a friend come up to me out of the blue and tell that she watched how my wife and I interacted with each other and what a great marriage we had and how we were an inspiration to her.  Others watch.  Others see how you look at your wife and how she looks at her husband.  They see if you genuinely love each other or not.  We are being watched in our marriages.

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. – Mark 10:7,8

Have more than just a great marriage, have a significant one.

Thanking God for One of the Greatest Gifts

God gives us many gifts and blessings throughout our lives.  Starting with the gift of salvation right down to the gift of a beautiful day.  The gift I want to acknowledge and thank the Lord for today, is the gift he gave to me 22 years ago today….my wife.

My wife Holly and I started dating in 1988, we were married in 1992 and now 22 years and 4 kids later, I can look back and say that God’s gift to me was absolutely perfect.  It wasn’t like that shirt you may have received on your birthday that was slightly too big or perhaps the wrong color, but you wore it anyway.  It wasn’t like the video game that you finished in a week and put it back on the shelf never to look at again, it wasn’t like the fancy dinner that you were taken out to to celebrate some event that you enjoyed, but then was gone and forgotten in hours… it was like none of those.  It was the gift that has lasted these 22 years, the gift I never grow tired of, the gift that I won’t take back because I outgrew it….no it is the gift that changes,  but gets better as we age, the longer we are married, the stronger we become.

The other side of that, which we often forget to mention, is that we are prepared as a gift to our spouse.  God gave me as a gift to my wife.  I need to be aware of that and make sure that I treat her like someone deserving of a fine gift….and make sure that I am that fine gift.  Oh, none of us are perfect, we all have our flaws, but if we think each day that God gave me to her and her to me as gifts, that God created us for each other.  If we think that way each day, we’ll be conscious of when we are not acting like that fine gift we were meant to be.

When you enter your marriage, one prepared by God, it can do nothing else but succeed.

We received an anniversary card this year that says’ something that truly stands out to me.

Because God has chosen you for each other,
Because you have made Him your partner in marriage as well as in life,
Because your deep faith allows Him to work in your hearts in beautiful, all-knowing ways
Yours is a marriage abundantly blessed with love and joy…

What a great thought to leave on this day. God has chosen us for each other.  We have asked him to be a central part of our marriage.  We are married because God chose us for each other.  Because of our faith that God will help us through the rough spots.  Our marriage is and has been abundantly blessed.

To my wife, Holly, who I know reads my posts……I love you more and more each day.  I thank God for the wonderful gift he gave to me all those years ago and I pray that I can be the gift to you that God intended me to be.   Love ya babe!

Date night at the grocery store

My wife and I managed to get away by ourselves for a few hours on a Friday evening.  Having four active children, this is something that is not always easy to do.  We told the kids we were going out to pick up some groceries, and that was not a lie.  We just happened to stop to eat first, then to a few other stores and then finally to the grocery store where we did indeed, pick up a small load of groceries.

When did this happen?  When did we start looking forward to our grocery shopping trips to get some quality alone time….time to talk, time to laugh, time just to spend together.  It doesn’t seem that long ago, when Friday night meant going out with friends, or having friends over, or some other exciting activity.  It was a kickoff to the weekend that we tried to really live up.  A day when we could let loose and forget about the cares of the work week.

But no more.  First came children, then came responsibility, then came maturity….and in my case, that was about the order they arrived in.  I don’t begrudge anything about my Friday nights.  In fact, I love my Fridays.  I can’t think of a better way to spend my free time, than spending it with my family.   And those times when my wife and I can get away for a few hours, even if just to pick up some groceries are priceless times that I actually look forward to.  Do I like grocery shopping?  No not really, neither of us do….but the time spent together makes it all worth it.

One thing people have told me over and over is that as a couple, you need to make sure you are still their best friend throughout the marriage.  As the kids grow and leave the nest, soon it’s just the two of you again.  And as you were raising the kids, often you spend so much time focused on them and their needs, that you neglect your partner.  And then, when the nest is empty, you’re living with a stranger, one that you may not even know anymore.  So many marriages end in divorce after the children are all gone and one of the big reasons is the marriage was neglected during those child rearing years.

My wife and I have made it a point….that would not happen to us.  We still have young ones, but our oldest is 18 and the independence of the children is beginning.  So our trips to the grocery story are and have been an important part of our marriage and maintaining the friendship we’ve always had.  We’ve been married for almost 22 years and she is still my best friend.

Grocery shopping or whatever errand or chore you need to do is always better when you can spend the time with someone else…what better way, than to spend it making your marriage stronger.