I’ve been married nearly a dozen years. I’ve performed I don’t know how many weddings, presided over even more pre-marital counseling sessions and refereed an equal amount of relationships as they were coming to an end. So I’m not Dr Phil but I’ve learned a thing or two. Or ten.
#5: Do Over
I’ve done a few vow recommittals over the years. I’m actually surprised more people don’t do them. I can tell you I like them 100x more than I like performing weddings. They have a simple, tender elegance to them. No ridiculous flowers, pricey DJ or annoying photographer humping the floor to wiggle his way to the exact spot I told him I didn’t want him during the ceremony.
And I like recommittal ceremonies for the wrinkles, warts, and wisdom the couple bring with them to the moment, all of which somehow seem to breathe new life in to the ancient vows.
For example, I usually hate- and refuse if possible- reading 1 Corinthians 13 (‘Love is patient, love is kind…’ at weddings. It always gets heard and quickly dismissed as sentimental schlock, the scriptural equivalent of the Gibrain’s ‘The Prophet.’
But when 1 Corinthians 13 is read for a couple who want to renew their vows after 20, 30 years…suddenly it sounds like Gospel- because after a life lived together the couple knows only Jesus really measures up to the love of which Paul writes. And only Jesus makes such love possible in us.
Here’s what I’ve learned from both recommittal ceremonies and simply watching couples’ marriages change, grow and sometimes deteriorate. Marriage requires you to say ‘I do’ not just to the person standing in front of you on your wedding day. Marriage requires you to say ‘I do’ to whomever and whatever that person will become, something unknown on your wedding day.
On the one hand, that’s the great risk a person makes by marrying someone. You don’t know who they’re going to be 20 years hence. All you CAN know is that they won’t be the same exact person. On the other hand, that risk is what makes weddings beautiful and marriage an act of faith.
Marriage requires spouses to recommit- either informally or liturgically but always intentionally- at key junctures along the way of their lives together. Your spouse won’t be the same person at 45 they were at 25. They won’t be at 65 who they were at 30.
I’ve seen too many couples throw in the towel because their spouse has changed yet they never took the intentional steps of determining how they can best love their spouse as they are now and help them grow in to the person God wants them to be.
I’ve seen even more people’s marriages whither on the vine because they assumed what got their marriage to the 10 year mark will get them another 10 years. They never develop new habits, new skills, new goals, new ways of relating and emoting for the place they find themselves now in their marriage. And the marriage atrophies until the couple are no longer truly married so much as they’re cohabitating.
You’d never plant a seed in the ground, water it a little, and then walk away assuming the rest will take care of itself and that little seed will grow in to mighty impressive tree.
But I see people all the time treat their marriage that way.
Marriage requires you to say: I Do. And then: I Do. And later: I Do. And probably a few more times along the way: I Do.