Ah Valentine’s Day, a day to celebrate love. A day when young people, ok girls, dream that red hearts and chocolate will lead to a white dress and cake.
When a couple becomes engaged the focus shifts, rather radically, from the couple themselves to a day. A single day in the future that begins to take over. A date is chosen, church and hall must be reserved. Invitations selected, colors, themes, music. THE DRESS. Entrees, cake, tuxedos, photographer, flowers.
The focus becomes The Wedding. But The Wedding lasts only a few hours. It’s what is left after The Wedding that really requires our focus. The food will be eaten, the music will stop, the flowers will die, the tuxes must be returned, the guests go home, and the dress, the all important dress will end up in a box somewhere. What remains after The Wedding? Perhaps the top layer of a cake that will NOT taste good one year later, photos, memories, and…
When my beloved and I were engaged, we went through premarital counseling with our minister. We talked about many things that meant absolutely nothing to us like… finances. What finances? We were broke. Communication. I love him, he loves me, what more do we need? Children. (Sorry guys but you weren’t even a twinkle in Daddy’s eye yet.)
When we finished talking about marriage, we focused on the truly important thing: The Wedding. We selected music, and made some other decisions and then we were given a choice regarding our vows.
Vows. Of all the decisions that must be made regarding The Wedding, this should be of great importance. What remains after The Wedding? Promises. But of course I am speaking in hindsight.
Writing our own vows was never considered, so we were given a choice between three sets of vows.
One of the promises jumped out at me: I will forgive you as we have been forgiven. I liked that. That brought Jesus right into our Big Day. The deal was done, these would be our vows:
and these things I promise you: I will be faithful to you and honest with you; I will respect, trust, help, and care for you; I will share my life with you; I will forgive you as we have been forgiven; and I will try with you to better understand ourselves, the world, and God; through the best and the worst of what is to come as long as we live.
This we promised each other before our selected witnesses on a beautiful day in October. But what did I know 28 years ago? At 19 what did I really think “through the best and the worst of what is to come” meant?
A friend lent me a CD recently. Sara Groves’ new CD. On it there is a song called Different Kinds of Happy. It is about marriage, about two people “loving each other, sharing our secrets, baring our souls, helping each other come clean.” But the best line of the whole song is this:
Better than our promises, is the day we got to keep them.
On my Wedding Day I did not look ahead and imagine the day I would get to keep my promises. I could not foresee the best…three beautiful children, good friends, churches, moves, travel. Nor could I imagine the worst…a miscarried pregnancy, depression, financial stress, job changes, death of a parent, pain that only someone allowed so close can inflict. Twenty-eight years ago I could not foresee the days I would choose to respect my beloved, the days I would trust him, the days I would help him, care for him. I didn’t foresee the best or the worst, and I didn’t really anticipate having to forgive him as we have been forgiven.
I like our vows. A lot. I like what they say, and how they say it. I like each thought and promise. But, better than our promises, was the day we got to keep them.
Have you made promises? Has the day come to keep them? That is what is left after The Wedding. A man and a woman, and some promises.
I wish those two could see us now, they never would believe…