Last week, we celebrated 15 years of marriage.
As I think about that day, 15 years ago, it strikes me how the vows I recited in front of God, my husband, family and friends that day were more than a promise in that one moment. They are a living thing, changing and growing over time, but always remaining steady and true at their core.
"To have and to hold from this day forward"
Physical touch is such a vital part of our marriage. Over the years, this has taken many different forms. There are the obvious aspects that we all think of when we consider the physical side of marriage, but there is so much more to "having and holding" than what happens in the marriage bed.
The gentle caress of my cheek when he wipes away my tears, the intertwining of our fingers while holding hands, the support of his strong hand in the small of my back as we walk into the hospital to welcome our first child into this world, the comfort of his strong arms around me as I weep on his chest after the loss of our 4th child through miscarriage.
I also want to address the "to have" portion of this phrase. I think we all have an inherent desire to belong, and I am so grateful to have someone to belong to and who belongs to me in this life.
As young, healthy, and somewhat naive newlyweds-our future was full of "for better". It's funny when we look back in our lives we see the challenges and hard times along with the joy and good times, but when we look ahead, we tend to only focus on the "for better". For the most part, I think we view this portion of our vows through the lens of life circumstances. But I think it goes deeper than that. By promising to love each other "for better or worse" we are promising to stick it out even when our spouse disappoints us.
We are human. We disappoint one another. As sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, your spouse will let you down. What I have learned, and am still learning, about this particular vow, is that marriage is a picture of God's love for the church. We have to be willing to extend grace to our spouse, just as God covers our multitude of sins with His grace.
"For richer, for poorer"
On the surface, this is pretty straightforward. Our love is not to be altered by our financial situation. And that is good stuff-true and wise. However, the past 2 years have taught me more about the meaning of this particular vow than I could possibly have imagined. Our story of financial struggle is shared throughout my blog, so I will spare you the details here. Suffice it to stay, my understanding of what makes you rich and what makes you poor has changed dramatically.
When you are 22 and healthy and vibrant and full of life, "in sickness" seems like something you will have to deal with after say....30 or 40 years of marriage. I pictured us growing old together, rocking in our matching chairs on the front porch of our vintage, remodeled farmhouse, sipping sweet tea while we watched our grandchildren play in our yard. Sickness didn't really figure into my vision of the future.
However, that was not quite how it worked out. Since 2009, I have battled chronic illness. Lately, the main topic of conversation with my husband tends to be related to my health. My daily activities are dictated by how my body feels. This is not what I had planned. This is not how it's supposed to be 15 years in.
But there has been a purpose-a beautiful, God-ordained, blessed purpose-in all of this. My husband has shown me compassion and care beyond anything I could have imagined. He has searched for answers with me, taken me to countless doctor's appointments, and taken care of me when I have been too weak, too exhausted, and too sick to manage.
"To love, honor, and obey"
Apparently, there is a trend among Christians and non-Christians alike, to omit the "obey" portion of the bride's vows. Obedience and submission are not popular concepts in today's society, especially when it comes to wives obeying husbands.
I purposed to include this word in our wedding vows 15 years ago, but I have to be honest, it was not likely for the right reasons. But God knew. He saw our lives 5, 10, 15 years down the road and knew that this little word would play a huge role in our marriage.
Submission does not come easy to me. But as I study God's word and instruction on this topic and work to make it a part of my daily life, not just in marriage, but in my walk with God, I find great freedom in obedience. There is a reason that God created the husband to be the head of the family. There has to be a leader, there has to be a final decision-maker. And let me be entirely truthful here-I am glad it's not me! I am so thankful for a godly, strong and wise husband to turn to when tough decisions have to be made. Don't misunderstand-I still express my opinion (a lot) and he listens and carefully considers my desires. But sometimes, hard choices have to be made and it is important to have a strong leader who seeks God's guidance in this process.