Fifteen years ago, on October 3, 1996, my husband and I exchanged vows. We
did not do this in front of a church full of people. No, instead we stood before each other and God in a gazebo, in a park, in South Hamilton, Massachusetts and eloped. We looked into each others eyes and spoke the words that brides and grooms have said for hundreds of years.
I, Karen, take you, John, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, forsaking all others be faithful only to you as long as we both shall live.
When I said these vows it was easy to pledge my life to my husband with no knowledge of what the future would bring. Our lives were a blank slate. We were beginning and we had no idea what God would walk us through.
It is in living that the sincerity of the vows are tested. Vows are unique because they are not conditional. It is a pledge you make to someone else. It is not based on the choices they make.
In our society we take the exchange of these vows so lightly. We spend thousands of dollars and months of planning for the day we speak these vows but we give no thought or planning to all the days that follow. We live in a society where marriages last 70 days or 70 hours. Where they are easily cast aside when someone else that seems to make us happier come along.
When John and I were preparing to marry we meet with a professor who gave us some excellent advise. He said there will be days that you will wonder why you married this person. There will be days when you don’t feel “in love” with your spouse. But you have made a commitment to this person and that commitment has to be enough to keep you married until the feeling return.
Commitments can be hard to maintain when life gets hard. The unexpected illness changes the outlook of your future. The child who rebels. The mounting debt that overwhelms your finances. The spouse who chooses to engage in an affair. The everyday worries that erode a once close and loving relationship. But the commitment can encourage you to remain steadfast even in the face of adversity. The commitment can be a reunion point. A reminder of what you once pledged.
We need these reminders in our lives. If you are married, no matter what the state of that union is, take a minute to reflect on the vows you made. Are there vows that need refreshed? New commitments that need to be made?
What I appreciate most about the vows I exchanged with my husband is the grace and forgiveness found in them. Grace that says when you mess up I will still be here. Grace that allows room for personal growth. Forgiveness for the little hurts that happen when 2 people spend a lifetime together.
Vows are a chance to show each other unconditional love. A chance to see someone’s bumps, bruises, scars, and ugly parts and to still say I choose you, forever.