We’ve all been to weddings – and just love them! In spite of the increasing divorce rate (70% of divorces are initiated by wives), they restore excitement to our own marriages and a hope in happily ever after – or at least they try to.
Every part of the wedding ceremony is filled with wonder, but my favourite part is the vow exchange. After my husband became a believer, one of the first things he did was to re-propose to me. This is a portion of the vows that I spoke to him at our re-dedication ceremony:
I will be yours in times of Plenty & Want and Health & Sickness, Joy & Sorrow and Triumph & Failure.
I promise to Cherish and Respect you, Care For and Protect you, Comfort and Encourage you, and stay married to you until I die.
I will continue trying to be the completer God designed especially for you. In confidence I will submit myself to your headship, as to our Lord. Therefore I pledge my life to you as an obedient, faithful and loving wife.
These words inspire such hope and confidence. As I wrote them, I could feel my courage and boldness grow. But, what if we change them slightly? What if we add just a few conditions. A sort of safety net for our feelings to protect ourselves.
I will be yours in times of Plenty & Want - provided the ‘want’ isn’t too great and doesn‘t happen too often
and health & sickness - provided the sickness isn’t too inconvenient and I’m able to deal with it.
Joy & Sorrow - provided the sorrow isn’t too deep and doesn’t hurt me too much.
and Triumph & Failure – provided these failures don’t interrupt our flow of life for too long and don‘t happen too often.
I promise to Cherish and Respect you – so long as you do it first for me.
Care for and Protect you – so long as I feel cared for and protected I will reciprocate.
Comfort and Encourage you - so long as I feel you’re worthy of it.
And stay married to you until I die - unless I fall out of love with you.
I will continue trying to be the completer God designed especially for you - unless you change too much or make it too hard.
And in confidence I will submit myself to your headship, as to our Lord. - As long as you behave like the head (our Lord) and don’t hurt me with any bad judgments or mistakes in life.
Therefore I pledge my life to you, as an obedient, faithful and loving wife - so long as I think you are being an obedient, faithful and loving husband.
Hmmmm, conditions are interesting. In no way would I want God to apply any conditions to my relationship with Him – because I fall so short of the mark myself. Yet, if I honestly look into my past, I’d have to admit that there was a time when my love was conditional upon my husband’s behaviour; not very attractive for a professing Christ follower.
It is because God makes it explicitly clear that nothing will cause Him to drop me (Romans 8:35, 38-39) that He expects my love (His love in me) towards my brother to be likewise – No conditions added. One of the reasons Jesus came as a person was to show us what this “one another” looks like, I give you a new commandment: that you should love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another. -John 13:34
And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tender hearted (compassionate, understanding loving-hearted), forgiving one another[readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you. –Ephesians 4:32
Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against anther, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive]. –Colossians 3:13
See that none of you repays another with evil for evil, but always aim to show kindness and seek to do good to one another and to everybody. –Thessalonians 5:15
Choosing God’s Spirit instead of the temptation of my flesh means I respond the way He responds to me: no exclusions or conditions. He told us what to do. Jesus showed us and the Holy Spirit empowers us.
Although we don’t say on our wedding day, but if we break the unity with our brother in marriage – drop him; our actions prove, that is what we really meant: My promises were conditional upon my brother’s behaviour rather than God’s sovereignty. This was one of the scariest things that I had to learn about myself. It was at the exact moment that I had been packing to leave Darrell that God showed me that I wasn’t really trusting Him.