Editor’s Note: This is the first installment in our “Engaged and…” series where we feature the stories of engaged and/or newly-married couples. Since we focus on all aspects of singleness, we’ve found that one oft-neglected area of discussion is the journey through engagement. It’s a bit like the Final Frontier of singleness, if you will. It is our hope that this series is beneficial for both the single adult who is looking to marry one day, as well as the couples who are going to the chapel soon.
It was a couple weeks before our wedding, and we found ourselves at a booth in a pizza place with a blank sheet of loose leaf in front of us. Even before the engagement, Melissa and I agreed that we wanted to write our own vows, but in complete “Melissa-and-Chris” fashion, we hadn’t even taken the first step towards meeting this goal.
Finally, with the wedding breathing down our necks, Melissa decided it was time to actually write our vows and used the powerfully persuasive promise of pizza to convince me that it was time to take action. So, as we waited for our pizza to arrive at our table, we began to make a list.
The list was very jumbled, somewhat confusing at first glance and had words written both in lead and ink as we each contributed in between bites of the pizza. By the end of dinner, we had a full page of scribbled notes that would soon be expanded to the promises we tearfully and joyfully made to each other on our wedding day.
These same promises are the ones we will continue to hold on to in seasons of pain, joy, and everything in between.
“In the same way God has first loved me, I vow to love you in the following ways…”
So why write our own vows in the first place? The traditional vows with the having and the holding, with the sickness and health, are beautiful and reflect this unconditional love well enough. Even vows found in wedding liturgies from various denominations put on display the love of Christ. However, Melissa and I wrote our own vows for two primary reasons: for the guests of our wedding and for each other.
“I promise to strive to set an example of a life completely devoted to being obedient to the calling of Jesus…”
Weddings present a unique opportunity. For a short amount of time, there is an unconventional, yet captive audience in a church. We wanted to take every possible opportunity to present a picture of the same Gospel that changed both of our lives. We wanted to take the spotlight off of us and put it on Jesus.
To those who have not experienced the beautifully backwards love of Christ, most of our vows sound foolish and impossible to keep. However, by trying to communicate that these promises are not based out of some idealistic wish or naive hope, but rather out of our real encounter with the love of the Savior of the world, we aimed to get people—at the very least—to begin to question their understanding of what true love is.
“I promise to continuously remind you of your worth and value; that it is not rooted in the things of this world, your successes or failures. But rather, in the worth that your Heavenly Father has graciously secured for you…”
The second reason we chose to write our own vows was to have a set of Christ-centered promises always at hand at every stage of our marriage, to refer back to and to keep us from losing sight of the Lord’s sustaining involvement in our marriage.
Marriage is hard. Marriage is messy. It involves bringing two broken people, each with their own sets of scars and insecurities, into extreme intimacy.
This is why Melissa and I wanted our own set of personalized promises. We needed practical ways and reminders to love each other in the midst of the brokenness. We needed promises to keep us completely rooted in the way Christ looked straight past our imperfections and still loved us perfectly.
“If the Lord blesses us with children, I promise to join with you in being dedicated to doing everything in our power to see them become disciples of Christ. If we have children, I promise to prioritize my role as ‘husband’ ahead of my role as ‘father,’ still treasuring you more than any other person on this Earth…”
In only four months of marriage, I have failed to love Melissa like Christ loved me too many times to count. I’m sure I will continue to be imperfect in keeping the promises that I proclaimed to her on our wedding day. But she has continued to forgive me and extend grace. Like Christ loved her.
Because we strived to have our vows reflect the perfect love of Christ, we have set ourselves up to fail. However, every time I fail and am granted grace and forgiveness, my love for Melissa grows even deeper. And every time I experience Melissa’s love in spite of my failures, I get a taste of the love of Christ, reminding me that I must love her in the same way.
“I will never divorce you or entertain the idea of divorce as a solution for any problem. No matter how far I have strayed from God, He has never rejected or abandoned our relationship and I promise to love you in the same way…”
Our vows were shaped by our beliefs, but none of our insight or outlook on marriage would be possible without the obedience and vulnerability of fellow saints in our lives who take time to talk, share and be transparent about marriage.
I’d encourage married couples in every phase of life to share their lives honestly, in deep community, with younger couples. It matters.
“I promise to love you with a love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and never ends…”
Have you considered writing your own vows when you get married? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments below.