God's Mercy

Why We Didn’t Say “I Do”.

February 16, 2016
This week Tim and I have celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary. It feels like a great celebration. These eight years have brought amazing highs and deep lows. There have been moments where it seemed unlikely that we would make it. But we did. And, by God’s grace, we’re still going.
Pondering the wonders and mysteries that is the Christian marriage, our vows have been running through my mind. I remember so clearly sitting down and picking which set of vows we would say. Belonging to the Anglican church {The Church of England}, we have set vows pre-written for us. We can choose to do our own if we like, but we decided to follow the traditional version that has been used by the CoE for centuries.

The vows are the most famous of vows. The ones you see in most movies. But there is a difference, and it is a difference that I treasure. The difference is that we didn’t say, “I do.”

We said, “I will.”

 

 

Being an English major and an ex-English language teacher, the difference is immediate. In grammar, the difference is this: the present tense compared to the future tense. One says I commit now, the other says I commit now and into the future.
Now, before I go further, please don’t think I am saying that every single person who has said “I do” is wrong or any such thing. It’s sad that I have to even add a sort of disclosure. We’re so sensitive to difference, even amongst Christians, that we often take offence when none was intended. Saying “I do” is just as fully-committed from the heart and mind as saying “I will”. The point of this post is to highlight something beautiful in the tradition of the Anglican church, the church which followed the Reformation and established what we now know as Protestantism.
Just like old hymns, testimonies of the pioneers of our faith, the eloquent words of great minds gone before – there is something beautiful and deep in the carefully chosen words of liturgy and traditional church confessions. So it is with the traditional wedding vows.
When we say, “I will” we are consciously pre-empting the “I won’t”.
We are saying, I have, I am and I will all in one. We are saying that, on the days this marriage is glorious, we will. And we are saying that, on the days this marriage causes us the deepest of sorrows and pain, we will. We will whether we feel love or fall out of love. We will whether we know the person next to us in the dark night, or not. We will try our hardest to commit to loving each other.
We will.
You see, marriage today is so irrevocably different to what God established it at the beginning. Aside from a few, it doesn’t image Christ and the Church. It doesn’t mirror the great love God has for us and us for him. It doesn’t gently reveal the beauties in the roles of headship and submission which reveal the mysteries of something heavenly.
Marriage today is a poor reflection of something great; a fleeting vision of something eternal. And, at the time of getting married, though I didn’t think there was anything bad/wrong/sinful in saying “I do”, coming from a broken family, my young twenty-one-year-old heart was stubbornly determined to make this marriage different from my parents.
And let me tell you, without spilling the secrets of our covenant, choosing to say “I will” has made a difference. There was one particular moment, my face drenched in tears, as I stared at our wedding photos and couldn’t recognise that young couple, and knew only by God’s grace, could I continue to choose to say “I will” to my husband. And, it has been the same with him to me.
I am sure there is something poignant in creating your own vows, as many modern weddings do now. But if you are on the verge of getting married, I would love to encourage you to choose words that have stood the test of time. 
Choose words that were used when married couples did stay together…
Choose words that were used when marriage was understood to be a commitment before God. ..
Choose words you know that you can rely on when the going gets tough, because it will…
We can say meaningful words to one another at any given time in our lives as a married couple. But we have one chance to say, before God and to those who witness our wedding, words that truly commit to this covenant that mirrors our Jesus and us, the Church. As the minister says at the beginning of the service,

“We have come together in the presence of God to witness and celebrate the marriage of N and N, and to pray God’s blessing upon them now and in the years ahead.
Marriage is a gift of God our Creator, whose intention is that husband and wife should be united in heart, body and mind.
In their union they fulfil their love for each other.
Marriage is given to provide the stability necessary for family life, so that children may be cared for lovingly and grow to full maturity.
Marriage is a way of life to be upheld and honoured. No one should enter into it lightly. It involves a serious and life-long commitment to each other’s good in a union of strength, sympathy and delight.” {source}
  1. How beautiful Sarah! Marriage is such a beautiful picture of Christ and the church. It's when we work through the hard days that our marriages becomes stronger and we fall more in love. Unfortunately marriage is not taken seriously anymore by so many. What a great reminder of what our vows really mean!

  2. It breaks my heart the way marriage is today. Yet, hopefully {like God did with me from my family}, what is broken and obviously not working convicts others to commit to the true and enduring purpose of marriage: to love the other more than myself, no matter what.

  3. Fantastic post! Just ran across your blog-wow-NZ! I have only read American blogs. I want to remember this for my children!
    Married 28 years, praying you will be too, someday.
    And I read your homeschooling post, let me say as a 20 year hs veteran (and 8 more years to go), you will never regret it!
    Slightly embarrassed to comment to an English teacher–my grammar is not what it should be. Blessings, I hope to visit again.

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