I got married just over a year ago. It was a beautiful October day. The air was a little chilly but, with the heat that my nerves were generating, it felt perfect. There was no more frantic planning or details to get in order. I had gotten a great night of sleep and the honeymoon bags were packed. Our dear friends and family were there, many having driven 12 hours or more, to watch as my bridegroom and I finally started a new family together.
I am not usually sentimental about things, but I am rather sentimental about words and emotions. Throughout the planning process, I didn’t have as much of a vested interest in whether the room was decorated well enough or my hair was styled perfectly or even if the pictures turned out how I wanted (and everyone knows how important the pictures are). The one thing that, for me, epitomized the success of the entire wedding was that Louis and I could personally write and read our own vows to one another. That is what the day is supposed to actually be about anyway, right?
I spent so much time trying to find the perfect string of words that conveyed all the love, affection, and fierce commitment I have for this beloved man of mine. There were multiple drafts, an emotional computer crash, and then more drafts. And when it came time to finalize them, I was so ecstatic to soon proclaim to Louis all that I vowed to be and do as his wife.
On October 17, 2015, this is what I vowed to Louis.
Jump to present day.
I am sure that I have broken every single one of the things I vowed to Louis.
I have disrespected him. I have used words that are definitely not life-giving. I have refused to serve him and have served myself. I have chosen not to pursue reconciliation and instead cling desperately to my pride. Most of all, I haven’t always made Jesus my greatest priority in our marriage.
Whether someone writes their own vows or uses standardized ones, we all stand up there and vow things that we know we can’t follow through on. We make promises that we know we will break. We give the impression that we will be the perfect husband or wife. Is that how we should really be starting a marriage?
Why is that? Why do we write or recite wedding vows we know we will break?
Some of my first thoughts were that maybe it is out of pure tradition. Many of aspects of a wedding are based on tradition: the bouquet toss, the first dance, the white dress. Maybe we recite vows because we believe that to be a necessary element to a wedding. But nowadays, many people seem to be doing away with “traditional” elements of a wedding.
So maybe it is the naivety of new love? Maybe naivety makes us believe that somehow our marriage or our spouse will be the one that makes all the messy things in life disappear. We will be the couple that beats all odds because no one has experienced or can truly understand the depth of love that we have for one another. Romantic, right?
As I recently found myself rereading my vows, I was overcome with emotion when I realized why I wrote vows I knew I would break. And it isn’t something I could have known as I read them to my, now, husband for the first time.
I wrote them as a reminder.
My vows are a humble reminder that I can’t rely on my own strength to be a good wife. They are a reminder of the possibilities that come from a life and a relationship that is submitted to the Lord. Real, true, honest love cannot be maintained outside of the intervention of the Lord, for God IS Love. Love bears all things, believes all things, and hopes all things. My vows remind me that love always perseveres to that end.
We don’t write our wedding vows for our wedding day. We write them for every day after that. On our wedding day when we are full of emotional love, it is easy to commit to and believe every one of those vows. That is why we write them for all the moments when it isn’t.
There have been times in my marriage when I have needed to open up my computer and read back through those vows. I have needed to regain the perspective that my husband and my marriage is more than just this moment of hardship, or disagreement, or pain. I’ve needed to read that our foundation is not our ability to avoid miscommunication or never act selfishly, but on our fervent commitment to live out a marriage that is a living example of God’s redemptive and faithful presence. I have needed reminding.
I don’t know what your story is, but I think we can all use reminding that we can’t do this life alone. And, that we don’t have to. We all have a way of making life messy and ugly sometimes, and I pray this would serve as a reminder to both you, and myself, that God loved us at our darkest and there is nothing He can’t heal or redeem.