I remember when Laura and I were dating.
In some ways it feels like yesterday: I remember vividly those high school dances, the excitement I felt when Pearl Jam came out with a new album, and the curious smell of hockey arena change rooms.
And new love.
Like many of you, Laura and I decided to stand up and make vows to one another.
Do you remember what promises you made? How long ago was it? 2, 10, 50 years?
You see, time passes. We’ve moved 6 times; had 4 career changes; 3 children; dark tunnels and radiant wins throughout almost 5000 days of married life.
On the popular level, I think people demean marriage. (Phrases like “the old ball and chain” come to mind.) But I don’t know a single person who wants a weaker marriage.
We want strong marriages. And we want the passage of time to help us, not hinder us, in this great cause.
I’m reminded of what Neil Barringham says: “The grass is greener where you water it.”
Makes sense, doesn’t it? So water it.
Today I’d just like to offer some marriage advice to anyone who wants to strengthen their marriage (and I hope that’s everyone). Here it is:
Sit down with each other and talk about your wedding vows.
As you look at what you said…
- have an honest discussion about how you have lived out your promises;
- about the times you messed them up;
- and about how those vows will make you stronger in the years to come.
Maybe you said the traditional vows. Maybe you made up your own. Maybe you stood before a pastor or priest, or a justice of the peace. Maybe it was just a few, or a throng. Perhaps you were nervous or calm. If you are a person of faith, you made them consciously in the presence of God.
No matter your background, I’m pretty sure you took seriously what you were saying.
But things in the past can fade. Like high school in a rear view mirror. And yes, people change. Of course they do! The crux is growing together in light of your promises.
Now this isn’t just some romantic idea—although it could be that. Talking about vows needs to be done honestly. Psychiatrist Scott Peck writes that “Mutual loving confrontation is a significant part of all successful and meaningful human relationships. Without it the relationship is either unsuccessful or shallow.” This is true for married relationships too. In love, husband and wife need to be “each other’s best critics.”
Honesty breeds intimacy.
So a vow isn’t something in the past. By virtue of it’s meaning it’s new every day. If you wear a wedding ring, the vows you said when you first put it on are just as present now.
(If you aren’t sure what your vows were maybe they’re like the ones I use when marrying couples at Westminster. You can click here to read them.)
I can’t help think about what Thomas More is quoted as saying in my favorite play, A Man for All Seasons. Speaking about the importance of taking an oath to his daughter Margaret he says, “When a man takes an oath, Meg, he’s holding his own self in his own hands. Like water (cups hands) and if he opens his fingers then — he needn’t hope to find himself again.”
This blog has inspired me. I think I’m going to print out our vows and frame them. That way, Laura and I will be reminded each and every day of our calling… um, I mean, marriage.
Fred Craddock tells the story of Mattie Dixon. She loved her wedding ring. While alive she wouldn’t have sold it for a million dollars. (She was married for 56 years.) She died—and having no immediate family to inherit these types of things they came to auction things off. Her wedding ring sold… for two dollars.
The value of love is not found in the things that fade, but in the purposes of the heart.
Review your wedding vows.
“The greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13: 13)