". . . to love honor and cherish
in sickness and in health
for richer or for poorer
for better or worse
in sadness and joy
forsaking all others
keeping yourself only
unto her as long as you both shall live. . . "
Those are the traditional marriage vows that are spoken thousands of times across our country every summer. Some folks change them a bit, some read them verbatim, but all vows are fairly close to this in theme, tone, and content.
I wonder, sometimes, as I interact with couples at many places along the road of dating/engagement/marriage/separation/divorce; how many of us mean these vows with no qualifications and no strings attached.
I wouldn't want to make weddings a somber affair with no joy, and stern-faced seriousness (although some pre-marital meetings should look like that :) ) . I also don't mean to scare some to the point where they delay marriage unnecessarily and are afraid of commitment. But, I'm not sure that many of us understand those vows, and marriage, correctly.
When you get married, you are giving yourself to the other person with no qualifications. Its not "I promise you all of these things. . . . . .if you hold down a good job" or "I promise you all of these things. . . . if we get to live in a certain place" or even "I promise you these things as long as you don't do ______"
No, marriage is a covenant that we are promising "as long as we both shall live".
I think many today are involved in a "marriage of convenience" where they never really gave themselves totally to the other person. Their marriage is coasting along, because their life circumstances are coasting along. And so all seems well, as long as all keeps going well in their place in life.
As soon as something happens, something like this is probably said "you promised that after 5 years we would be ______________" or "you knew from when we were dating that what I wanted was _____________".
These statements, and others like them, show a heart that isn't totally committed to another person. Its a qualified commitment,. . . . . a "50/50" commitment (oh, how I wish we could eliminate that statement from marriage resource materials).
So, "what are you saying Aaron. . .are you saying someone just has to shut up and take it and be quietly miserable for their whole life if things are going in a different direction than they thought??"
Well, No, hopefully not. Here's a nutshell of what I'm saying:
1) Before marriage, expectations need to be made known on a) where you want to live b) when and how many kids you want to have c) who wants/needs to work and for how long d) how do we do our finances. . .etc. .
2) All "plans" are subject to change and you aren't making a commitment to the person based on a-d above. You are making a commitment based on your love for that person and your mutual commitment to Christ.
3) During marriage, if things "change" and someone quits following the "plan". There needs to be open dialogue and perhaps outside help through counseling and friendships to help figure out if/why/when the plan is changing.
You see, when we married someone, we said "this is my life". . . ."this person is my spouse". . ."this is what I'm committing to". God honors a commitment like that, and gives us a pattern to follow in His Word, in pursuit/forgiveness/faithfulness to our covenant. Read Hosea. . . his wife was a prostitute and God continually told Hosea to take her back.
If only more of us would be patient with our spouse until we get somewhere close to a "Hosea level" of faithfulness and commitment.
So, if you're dating or engaged to someone. Make sure that your "love" for them is not based on anything circumstantial. Make sure they would look just as good with no money, no job, and both of you living in the Sudan (God could call you there, read Isaiah 6). Make sure that your commitments are based on your faith in God (none of us can keep marriage vows by ourself) and on your love for that person, not who you wish they would be or on things they have promised you.
If you are married, it might be time to renew the vows (I really like this). If you started down a path of convenience that has turned upside down,. . . and your love has turned with it. . . . . than perhaps its time to hit the "reset" button on this whole thing and renew your commitment to that person.
If you're the person who is changing the plans and jerking around your spouse. Remember, that the best thing for you and for your joy is to stay married. If you are doing things to endanger that reality, cut it out. Love your wife/husband by being considerate to them and putting your own new plans on hold and bringing them along slowly. It has been said, "A leader with no followers is just a guy taking a walk". Amen. . .
For both spouses. . . if you are so concerned about your joy and about "getting what you want", remember that what will bring you the most joy is a happy/adventurous/committed/loving marriage, and not some "wilderness man" or "white picket fence home" fantasy. Cut it out, love your wife/husband and move from there.
Let's all pursue what Christ has for us, pursue our joy in the joy of our spouse and have a loving, awesome Marriage of Inconvenience.
(after all, it wasn't very convenient of Jesus to die on the cross for us. . . He did that to secure His covenant)