On the first Sunday of Lent, the couples at the Mass I was at were asked to renew their wedding vows if they wanted to. Not long before then, my friend Rowena invited me to the renewal of her vows and party to follow. It is such an amazing privilege to be able to be a witness to two people making their solemn promises in front of God and people they love, and I loved every minute of being at my first wedding as an adult, seeing a dear friend I look up to become a good man’s wife last July.
That marriages are such public acts can sometimes be annoying, especially as it comes with traditions and expectations that can make it very expensive to have a wedding, right at the beginning of a time that will require some financial investment too (and financial concerns are one big reasons why relationships are strained, and one of the conversations you should have before you get engaged); however, I think there is something beautiful and really strong about making a public commitment to someone. You have a community around you to keep you accountable for what you have promised, and to support you and encourage you as you go about living those promises out.
As a Catholic woman, I have spent a ridiculous amount of time thinking about marriage, long before any prospect of someone crazy enough to want to be stuck with me ’til death do us apart materialised. One of the Blessed is She devotional writers said it best, when you’re not “in vows”, whether It doesn’t matter than most of the time I was fairly confident that God never had that in plan for me, as I felt really really strongly about wanting to be married and always contemplated religious life when I felt unloved and like nobody would ever want me, so to avoid dying alone I would live in a community. I also have looked at the positives of being single and never really attached them to being in religious life, in fact active politics doesn’t really go well with it. Most of my discernment seemed to point to one direction, but I’ve never really stopped to see what it was really promised on the wedding day. I may have been to talks about vocations that involved married couples talking about their story, or read blogs, or even attended workshops for engaged couples when I wasn’t even in a relationship, but nothing could replace sitting down with the Lord looking prayerfully at the words that are being said and what they really mean.
This is a statement of my identity as much as it is a statement of freely given consent necessary for a marriage to be valid. It is me, and only me, not someone else impersonating me (one hopes), or doing it for me. I can’t delegate doing it, and it is me that stands there, making that promise. The responsibility, from that day onwards, is on me.
take you, ____
This is a statement of action. It wasn’t imposed on me, I am choosing as much as I am chosen by the person who will say the same thing to me. The etymology of the word take indicates a violent action. That meaning has clearly gone lost, but it still retains a sense of agency, even power to it; the promise doesn’t say “I put up with”.
to be my husband
The vow could potentially end here: the word husband carries a lot of baggage, and in theory we all know what it means. However, in many cases we don’t. There are men who treat their wives as slaves, and abuse them, or think they are property. That’s not the Christian vision for marriage, and so the promise doesn’t end there. It explains what having a husband/wife truly means, even in the context of the whole service. It has the party involved actively repeat what that means.
I promise to be true to you
This is a much more than a poetic way to promise fidelity. Faithfulness is about loyalty and pledging alliance, that is true, but there are other ways to phrase the same thing. Being true also means being honest, and real. It’s about so much more than not cheating on your partner, which is not a given in this day and age. It’s about not hiding things, not pretending to be someone you are not.
in good times and in bad
It’s so easy to be faithful when things are fine and everybody is happy, but lies can sneak in unchecked when times are bad and things are tough. It’s easy enough to want to just get out of the situation, and if you don’t have the courage to face the consequences of walking out altogether, it’s easy to seek out an alternative reality to numb the pain. It could be another person, it could be drinks, it could be gambling, anything really.
in sickness and in health
This is a very personal one to me, and I really like how it says sickness first this time because my life at present feels like I am only ever sick, and so the person taking me on needs to be willing to be with me in sickness. I have a chronic illness and therefore taking me is taking me in sickness in a way, and there are times when it does get worse like last week. It was very meaningful to me to be able to see how Mr Knightley responds to my being ill as well.
I will love you and honour you
I love how these two come together. It’s easy to say that you love someone, and then act in a way that clearly shows you have no idea what the word means. To honour means to praise, to give attention to, to hold in esteem. As we often think of love as an emotion when to love someone is an action and a choice, deliberately appreciating people and cherishing them, I feel it’s important to pair it with an active verb (you don’t feel honour for someone). Honour is not only an active verb, but a really strong one too: we honour God, as the King David in Psalm 29.
Honour the Lord, you heavenly beings;
honour the Lord for his glory and strength.
Honour the Lord for the glory of his name.
Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
Isn’t it amazing that husbands and wives are asked to have the same relationship with God as with their spouse?
all the days of my life.
I much prefer this version to the death do us apart of protestant churches because it’s much more romantic. I read this and I think of my late grandmother, banging on about how my late grandfather called her his bambolina for years after he passed away. She never married again, she was widowed in her old age, but for those who are widowed younger there is something beautiful in knowing that whether they choose to remarry because they find love again with someone else, or they choose to stay the same for the rest of their lives, they will still love and honour the person they married. You can never truly forget someone you loved so much you married them, right?
Today’s blog post has been part of the Love Blog Challenge 2018 on the subject “Promises”. Find the rest of the series here.
Meet your co-hosts:
Brita from Belle Brita
Brita Long is the pink and sparkly personality behind the Christian feminist lifestyle blog, Belle Brita. While her first love will always be Paris, she lives happily with her husband Daniel Fleck in the Atlanta area.
Charlene from Enduring All Things
Charlene is a 20 something wife and fur-mama living in Portland, Oregon. She’s a follower of Christ, watcher of SciFi, reader of fantasy, singer of show tunes, and lover of her husband! She uses her blog, Enduring All Things to help couples build a marriage that will endure whatever comes their way.