28 years ago, dressed in a gorgeous silk and lace French gown, grasping a fragrant bouquet of white roses, I stood next to my handsome husband in a Dutch church filled with family, friends, and coworkers, and declared, “I do!” It is the hoped response when one is asked if they will take their husband/wife, to have and to hold from that day forward, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish; until death do they part.
It had already been a whirlwind of a day with a small group of family and friends including – lunch, civil service, cake, gift opening, and dinner – and often felt as if the entire experience were a dream. I never thought I would get married; much less have this fairytale courtship and wedding with a tall, good-looking foreigner in another country! And even though I had already said, “I do” at the “official” civil marriage ceremony at the Town Hall, it was in the church before God, and those gathered that I felt it was sealed. (I tell everyone we were married twice to be sure it took!) The entire international event was capped off with a grand reception at a British hotel in Amsterdam. (I got my money’s worth out of my dress!)
It was not until years later after experiencing a fair share of “in sickness, worse, and poorer” that I began to realize the full extent and seriousness of this marriage covenant I had committed to. Just 7 years in when we went through a fiery trial that tested our vows to the core, I was ready to walk away, feeling too wounded, frustrated, and angry to want to move forward. When my husband was out of work several times for an extended period, or when I battled serious illnesses, we were tempted to throw in the towel. But I knew that when I said, “I do” it meant for life no matter how tough things got; not, “as long as I feel like it.” I had made a covenant vow before God that was to be taken so earnestly that indeed, only death of one of us could break it.
There is another “I do” that carries as much weight if not more. When asked at seventeen, if I believed that Jesus was the Son of God, came to earth and died on the cross and paid atonement for my sins, rose again, and offers eternal life with Him for those who believe (Romans 10:9); I jubilantly proclaimed, “I do!” I readily asked for forgiveness of my sins and welcomed God as Lord of my life. His amazing love rescued me from a dark pit of depression, and I was thrilled to be set free from its grip. But just as in marriage, there are many times along one’s faith journey that can threaten the commitment to this vow. Where is God when a mother dies at age 52, three children are lost to miscarriages, bankruptcy is knocking on your door, or a cancer diagnosis turns your world upside down overnight? Continuing to trust when there seems to be no way out, clinging to faith in the midst of life’s fiercest storms, or not giving into fear and doubt when conditions seem hopeless, can tempt even the most faithful to turn away from God.
In studying the covenants in the Bible recently, I am profoundly reminded of how passionately God takes us, (and as we should Him), and the covenant vow He made with us. He loves us so intensely that He sent His only Son Jesus as the sacrificial lamb to die for our sins so we could be in a close and right relationship with Him. The all-powerful God of the universe cares intimately for me and you. It’s mind-blowing really! (I have this picture on my bedroom wall to remind me of His great love and care for me, and the price He paid to redeem me.) This covenant is for life too. But not just for here on earth, but also eternally with Him in heaven.
It seems that today’s culture and even some believers have lost a healthy fear and reverence for the Lord and solemnity for this vow. Instead, He’s become an “aspirin in the sky” to remedy life’s woes, the butler to ring up to grant our wish list, or one to plead with when things go awry. But when life’s circumstances don’t go our way or as we believe they should, we question and get angry with God. We mock Him. We deny Him, and we turn to the world to soothe our wounds instead of running to the One who knows and loves us best.
So on this my wedding anniversary, I give thanks to God for bringing me into a loving covenant relationship with my wonderful husband. One we are both deeply committed to. I thank God for helping me to stand firm in it and reap many blessings for staying the course. (We love each other more now than the day we were married.) I am also extremely grateful for the unconditional, amazing, loving covenant I have with God, and I pray that I will stay faithful to my commitment to Him, no matter who or what may try to tear us apart. For I know that it is only in Him and through Him that I can live life and live it abundantly (John 10:10).
For His glory,
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