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The Power of I Do

The power of the traditional protestant wedding vow has been lost in the pomp and circumstance that now overwhelms the marriage ceremony. Enormous amounts of money are spent on clothes, and food, and cakes, and photographers, and choreographers, and guests. Obviously, there isn’t anything wrong with those things. In fact, they have importance to the gravity of the ceremony. But they should be like seasoning – sprinkled here and there as an enhancement of the meal. Too much seasoning overpowers the main dish.

Consider those traditional vows. Most will be constructed in a fashion similar to this: "Do you [insert groom or bride name] take [insert groom or bride name] to be your lawfully wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, forsaking all others until death do you part?” Everyone, of course, answers with “I do.” But the divorce rate in the country betrays a full sincerity in the “I do” utterance of one or both of roughly half of all couples. In my experience, every single divorce I have encountered was marked by selfishness on the part of one or both people in the marriage – and it was usually both. My divorced friends had either never considered properly the vow they took, or they had forgotten it, or they willfully chose to avoid it as a means of dodging discomfort. This is a tragedy, because such a vow is one in which you have agreed to tie your body and life intimately to another person, and only to that person, through all of life’s adventures, even if those adventures are dominated by poverty, poor health, boredom, horrible circumstances, or the annoying idiosyncrasies and failures of the partner you chose. The weight of that vow is heavy, and to renege on it, more often than not, harms in some way everyone involved. It is likely that the eccentricities of the ceremony are not to blame, but rather our culture’s lack of actual commitment to the importance of those vows that bury the vows in a dangerous ignorance.

Interestingly, according to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, a lack of commitment is cited by more than 70 percent of the studied divorced individuals and couples as the number one cause for their divorce. This was followed by infidelity at 60 percent, and too much arguing at 58 percent. Financial problems were way down the list at around 37%. It stands to reason that if both partners are committed to their “I do,” that they will be able to solve the arguing, the finances, and almost any other problem that might arise. Even if only one partner is totally committed, there is a reasonable chance that things can be worked out. Because they have to be, or the alternative is misery. But if neither have true commitment, then loss of the relationship is inevitable, and likely far more expensive in terms of economics, emotions, psychology, and status than the extravagant wedding.

If both partners commit fully to God first, then fully to their “I do’s,” they will still live lives that encounter difficulties. But they will weather them, become stronger, persist in responsibility, create invaluable memories, live longer, solve problems, strengthen the fabric of their community, grow wisdom, and produce the kind of fruits that are marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. Maybe most significantly, they will lose any toxic self-focus, because you cannot maintain a true commitment to your “I do,” and remain selfish.

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