Friday, June 21, 2013

'Til Death Do Us Part

Parts 1, 2, and 3 are in the posts below (convenient links coming soon!)

‘Til death do us part
When you have this promise in your mind before you are married, you think that death will be very distant. Naturally, we will grow old and gray together, and the years between that will be the expected form of ups and downs that everyone always talks about. What tends to sink in a few months after being married is the inescapable knowledge that you can’t imagine your life without them. Not in that “I won’t be able to go on” should something terrible happen to them (or to you, Jennifer, you klutzy kid). It is that type of imagining of “Could there really be a version of my life in the future where this person won’t be there, where this promise would no longer be pending, but fulfilled?”

This vow sinks in when you realize that you are not only in it for the rest of your life, but with your whole life. You are all-in. You are more than dedicated, but devoted. “’Til death do us part” is not just about enjoying our life together until the inevitable happens. It is about giving our life for the other. Plain and simple, that is love. That means this vow, then, is not just a closing date of a contract. It is the finish line that can only be successfully reached when you give everything in the journey of getting there.

Are the previous posts and above the only meanings of these vows? Absolutely not. I am sure in a few years, I will become aware of several new meanings behind these ancient promises. But, for now, I know if I keep my mind on the above explanation of what these vows truly mean, then I will have much more to celebrate with each wedding we attend.

In Sickness and In Health

Parts 1 and 2 in the posts below!

In sickness and in health,
I am in constant admiration of those who care for the physical well-being of their spouse, especially in cases of long-term, serious, and terminal illness. I am so thankful that any health issues we have had have not been life-threatening. Not to be dramatic but with all sincerity, I think in marriage the health of something much more valuable is at risk: our souls.

I am responsible for getting my spouse to heaven, and he likewise. So, his spiritual well-being is in my care. When I promised to be faithful in sickness and in health, it means I signed up to not give up when he isn’t responding to the “cure” I think he needs. Often, my attempts to really care for a spiritual pain have the pathetic fervor of trying to pray away acne: petty, misguided, and really self-centered. First, prayer is not a vending machine, just as your marriage isn’t. It is always first a relationship. When you care more about the soul of your spouse then them being in the “right” spiritual health, you begin to see them as God sees them: a beloved member of His family, and someone to be cared for and given the sincerest care, no matter where they stand.

Am I caring for the well-being of his soul, or just waiting for him to fix things himself? Am I waiting for him to respond to my “cure” or “treatment” in the way I want?  Am I really invested in this matter? These are ugly questions I don’t ask myself enough, often because I am not going to like the answer. It is not up to me to decide what is valuable care for his soul. It is my job to care for it unceasingly.  

Last one (Part 4) is on it's way!

For Richer or Poorer

See Part 1 in the post below!

For richer or poorer,
Newly-wedded bliss often means we start out near broke. Many couples bond over this seemingly endless dinner routine of sharing Ramen noodles and a pouch of M&Ms. When first married, we were more financially blessed than other couples, though not out of the woods in this tough economy. Poorer has not been a huge concern for us, and we are truly thankful for this fact.

For us, “for richer or poorer” puts more emphasis on the richer. How? We have really been blessed in so many ways that we find ourselves wondering how to best share these blessings. No, we don’t have mounds of cash. But we do have the opportunity to be generous. In fact, in our marriage vows, this promise is more than just sticking together whether we have a lot of money or not. It calls for the willingness to push one another to continually give. When we rest on what we have without looking to use it for God’s glory out in the world, we settle. The moss grows. Pretty soon, the fear of mild uneasiness and embarrassment poisons the water as the risk of your version of “poorer” takes root.

In marriage, we have to push one another, many times in ways that we don’t like; it can make us uncomfortable, or scared, or put a mirror to our selfishness. God provides His blessings no longer to me or to my husband—He provides them to us together. While our willingness to receive them is often unequal, our desire to push the other towards the good must be alike and unshakable. In reality, this vow is not all fidelity in a financial struggle. It was how to be generous in this matter so that we can be generous in the matter that matters more: love. 

Part 3 is coming next!

For Better or Worse

This is a 4-part post, which will debut every hour this morning. Hope you enjoy!

I really like weddings, which is good, because we have gone to a lot of them lately. We’re headed to one this weekend, in fact. It just doesn’t get old watching a man and a woman look with this authentic, nearly disarming love for one another step into the ring to risk it all for the other person.

Haha, we all had our laugh at the ring pun.

But really, with so many family and friends tying the knot right and left, I thought it might be nice to provide some advice to these newlyweds. And by “to these newlyweds,” I of course mean to myself.

I thought a reminder of our wedding vows—and just a sliver of what they really mean—would be a good place to dive in so that at these beautiful weddings, I could improve and grow my own marriage. And, while I recently wrote a post for Stephen’s and my three-year anniversary with some ongoing marriage advice, there is always room for improvement. And ice cream.  

See below for more on that in a minute.

For better or worse,
The better part is pretty instant. You’re Married! You’re in Love! You’re Thinking is all Rainbows and Exclamation Points! (And Apparently Capitalized Words!) But in this fresh love, we become a bit foolish and think that worse is far down the road, or that we will be ready for it when it comes.

Wrong. Usually worse is unexpected, or scary, or weighing more heavily on only one spouse, or a source of deep pain, or a monstrous conglomeration of all of those things. I personally feel that is why “worse” is in the wedding vows, and not “through difficulties”: in my experience, “worse” happens unevenly, and one spouse may initially find things “worse” than the other. But that whole notion of “marriage is give and take” in working through the “worse” is missing something.

Marriage is all give. When it feels worse for you, your spouse must give. When worse for them, you give. And when you are united and the worse feels overwhelming for both of you, God provides the better. No, He doesn’t always make it better in the way we want it—in fact, that is pretty rare because we usually have no idea what is best for us. However, with our willingness to give it all to Him, He makes our marriage better.

In fact, to me this vow is the truest test of faithfulness in the human sense. God is ever faithful to us, and one reason among many that this marriage relationship exists to help us better understand that. God does not quit on us. Ever. He may not always appear to us in the way we desire, with all the answers and a bowl of ice cream. But He never quits us, even when we might like to quit on Him when things become more difficult than we thought we could bear. That is what we must bring into our marriage. When the ugly worse appears, we stay. We eat ice cream. And far above these, we work and pray our way towards the better. 

Stay tuned for Part 2: For Richer or Poorer