People tend to rush into marriage for the wrong reasons. Perhaps there is a baby on the way. Perhaps they are young and see marriage as a way to “get out” and gain independence. Maybe they truly are in love and just don’t want to wait. For whatever the reason, marriage is a serious decision that you are making, not just for financial and legal reasons, but in the eyes of God as well. The commitment you are making is not only to your wife, but also to God. When you share those marriage vows, you are vowing before God and man your promises.
There are many variations of vows given and many will even write their own. I thought it would be interesting here to take a look at the traditional marriage vow given in most American Christian churches and break it down to take a look at what it means. With some variations and minor changes over time, the basic vow has stayed pretty close to the same for centuries and goes something like this:
I,_____, take you, ____, to be my wife (or husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.
There is quite a bit going on in those few words and many of us have said those very words, without understanding the meaning behind them. I in fact, hadn’t thought too deeply about the words I spoke, until I started to research it for this post.
I, ____, take you, ____, to be my wife
Here is where we state our commitment. “I Jason, take you, Holly, to be my wife.” For me, I was entering into the biggest commitment I had every made up to that point, and probably one of the biggest since. I think we should all stop right here for a moment and think of the enormity of that commitment. When we look at what the Bible says about our responsibility as men entering into this contract, the enormity of what that commitment means becomes evident.
In Ephesians 5:25, we read, “And you husbands must love your wives with the same love that Christ showed the church. He gave up his life for her…”
Now there’s a high bar to set. We are to love our wives like Jesus Christ loved the church…is that even possible? And men, we know that Christ gave up his life for the church, for us…..are we willing to do the same for our wives?
In Genesis 2:24, we read, “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” What does this mean? Well I’ve found it to be true, that little can affect my wife without it affecting me. When she is down, I feel down. When she’s happy, I’m happier. If someone wrongs her, I feel slighted as well. We have come to anticipate each other’s needs and we help each other become all that Christ wants us to be. I believe my wife was created just for me and I for her. We are two parts to a whole, spiritually, mentally and sexually. When we come together, we are made whole.
The Bible goes on and on about the importance of marriage and the commitment made. It is not to be taken lightly.
…to have and to hold from this day forward…
This is forever folks. We make this vow to become as one, forever. We don’t get to quit when we get bored. We don’t get to walk away when things get tough. I promised my wife I would keep this vow from this day forward. There are no guarantees that marriage will be easy.
In Hebrews 13:5, we read God’s promise, “I will never fail you. I will never forsake you.” God promises us that he will be with us always. Despite all the terrible things God’s children have done throughout the Bible, he is always there for them. Despite all that we have sinned, God is there with us. He never leaves us.
Should we be any different with our wives? We are joined as one, how can we leave? We would as soon cut off my hand when it does something unwholesome. Would we do that? Of course not, we should do no different with our wives.
…for better, for worse…
Oh there will be good days and there will be bad days. There will be days when you roll over in bed and look at your wife and wonder how did I get so lucky? Then there will be days when you roll over and you wonder what the heck did I get myself into.
There are many uphill climbs that a couple must face throughout their marriage. You’ll reach a peak and life has a way of knocking you back down again. There you have two options, 1) you can run away and hide and let your wife deal with it herself, or 2) we can pick each other up, hold hands and head back up that hill together.
The promise of for better or worse, is a commitment by my wife and I to each other, that when our marriage or our family is attacked from outside the marriage by some other force, whatever it may be….we will rise up hand-in-hand, together to take on whatever the issue is. And when it’s the better part of it….we will bask hand-in-hand in the glory of God’s blessings. Thankful that we have a friend, a partner to share the joy of life with.
….for richer, for poorer….
It seems like it always come back to finances. Money problems are one of the biggest causes of divorce we see. It’s no wonder this is specifically pointed out in the marriage vows. Every couple will go through financial troubles, perhaps early on in the marriage or maybe not until later in life when illness strikes and takes away so many of the resources you have saved up.
Regardless of the the nature of the financial pitfall, the important thing to remember is that you’re in this together. My wife and I have gone through many ups and downs financially. We’ve been at the top where we’ve brought in a lot of money and we’ve fallen to the pits where we weren’t sure if we could feed our family, let alone keep our house and pay the bills.
When you are in the depths of financial despair, it becomes easy to blame the other partner. Perhaps you feel they are spending too much of your hard-earned money. Or perhaps they aren’t contributing their share to the family coffers. It is very easy for resentment to set in, and when that begins to happen, bitterness soon follows, then comes anger and before you know it every moment is spent in arguments over the money and you miss sight that you are partners. You forget that you’re joined as one and nothing can affect the one without affecting the other.
My wife and I have been blessed that she has been able to stay at home with the children while I worked and brought in the income for the family. There have been some rough patches where that second income would have been nice to have. But I never once, blamed her for not working outside the home. She supported me in all of my decisions and endeavours over the years and we always remembered, that we were stronger working together (with God) to solve our problems than we would be working apart.
….in sickness and in health….
Yep there’s that nasty word sickness. That is something I never want to think about, yet as I get older, it’s something that is becoming more real that we will end up having to face sooner or later.
My parents have been married for over 50 years. My mom has had breast cancer (30+ year survivor), my father has had open heart surgery. They have had multiple health issues throughout their long marriage, often putting not only physical and emotional stress on their marriage, but financial stress as well.
Not that it has been easy, but they have taken this part of the vow to heart. They loved each other before, during and after each episode and I believe each time, their love grew stronger. Now in their retired years, they have found that despite their many doctor visits, their many medications that they take and the times when they are just not feeling well….their love has not changed, nor has the commitment that they made to each other those many years ago.
…to love and to cherish…
Each day that goes by, I love my wife more than I did the day before. I cherish the time we spend together and I hate the time apart. No we are not constantly together, even when we are in the same room, but just knowing that she is near, brings joy to my heart.
When we go through difficult times, I often find that my love for her grows even stronger. I know that for her, sometimes the easy way out would be to give up and run away and leave all the problems behind. But I know that her love for me (and our family) is so strong that it is not even an option. She took this part of the vow very seriously.
I too, think this may be one of the most important parts of the vow. We are called to love and cherish our wives by God throughout the scriptures. Everything I do in life, is a by product of my love for her.
…till death do us part.
Again, a reminder that this is forever. We vow to spend the rest of our lives together. And when death takes us and we come together in heaven once more we will be together.
Recent statistics I’ve read show that nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. They never get to test this last part of the vow. My wife and I have made a promise to ourselves that we are in this for the long haul. Divorce is not an option. We are in it until death do us part.
“For I hate divorce!” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “It is as cruel as putting on a victim’s bloodstained coat,” says the Lord Almighty, “So guard yourself; always remain loyal to your wife.” – Malachi 2:16