Real Promises for a Lasting Marriage

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Robby and I recited our vows in March 2011. (Photo credit: Lindsay Osborne Photography.)

The following blog was first shared on OneChristianVoice.com, a media hub that shares information relevant to Christians, including local and world news, and inspirational and fun articles. Check out their site for information on what matters to you.


 

Fantasy

Music fills the church. A hush descends as guests take to their feet. The church doors open, revealing the bride in glistening white. She clutches a bouquet of red roses…no, make that yellow tulips flown in from Holland that very morning. The groom’s eyes glisten as he takes in the image of his beautiful bride.

Holding hands, the couple repeats time-honored vows. They quickly promise to love and keep one another for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, forsaking all others, for as long as they both shall live.

After sharing a passionate (but church-appropriate) kiss, they burst out of the building in a shower of flower petals and confetti, and ride off in the sunset toward their fabulous honeymoon destination.

The credits roll.

 

Reality

Thanks to the romanticism of movies and TV, that’s how most of us envision weddings. This image is reinforced by a gazillion posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, all subtly promising enduring happiness if we can only find the right combination of gowns, flowers, music, and cake. Perhaps that’s why the average cost of a wedding, reception, and honeymoon is over $28,000.[1] (And we’re still coming out of a recession!)

No matter how fantastic the wedding day is, it only lasts a day. It is suddenly replaced with the reality of married life. For many of us, that reality is a joyful partnership, filled with love and laughter that help get us through the rough patches of life. But for others, the reality doesn’t live up to the fantasy. Perhaps that’s a big reason why so many marriages end in divorce.

I can’t help but think that couples would be better prepared for marriage if they had just a dose of reality before the wedding day. That’s why I’d like to propose a change—not to TV shows or social media posts (Rom Coms and pins about color palettes all have their place). No, I’d like to expand those wedding vows.

 

Revised Wedding Vows

Instead of the sing-song words that we repeat but don’t take to heart, what if the bride and groom had to make real promises to one another—promises to love in spite of issues, to forgive when necessary, and to stay together no matter what? What if we packed our vows with Scripture, such as Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Corinthians 13:13, and Galatians 5:22-23?

The following is an example of what that could look like.

I, [Bride and Groom], promise:

  • To prioritize God first, you second, and myself third.
  • To encourage you to grow closer to the Lord.
  • To accept you just as you are, with all your flaws (which may become more apparent over time).
  • To forgive you completely of all past, current, and future wrong-doings, then put it behind me and move on.
  • To take care of you when you’re sick, even if it makes me sick.
  • To stay with you, even if (God forbid) you become disabled in any way.
  • To have eyes only for you, even when you’re old and no longer sexy.
  • To cherish you, even if you can’t give me the kids I’ve always dreamed of.
  • To respect you, never speaking discouraging or belittling words to you.
  • To always be lovingly honest with you.
  • To make all effort to live in peace and harmony with you.

 

There would also be vows specific to the bride and groom.

I, [Bride], promise:

  • To submit to you as the Church submits to Christ, even when it’s difficult or it doesn’t make sense at the time.
  • To let you take the lead, even when I think I know a faster, better way.

I, [Groom], promise:

  • To love you as Christ loves the Church, being willing to sacrifice myself completely for your well-being.
  • To help you pursue the call God has for your life, even if I have to make sacrifices for a season, such as doing all the “girly stuff,” like cooking and cleaning.

 

Once the vows are exchanged, the new married couple share a kiss, have cake, and dance all night! (This is a wedding celebration, after all.)

 

A Good Start

If all marriages in the Christian church started out with these vows—with real promises—would it refocus the emphasis from the fantasy of the wedding day to the reality of married life? Would it really make a difference on the quality of a marriage or its lasting success?

I don’t know. But I am certain that it’s a good start.

[1] “Wedding Cost Statistics” – Statistic Brain.” 2017 Statistic Brain Research Institute, publishing as Statistic Brain. 5/17/17. http://www.statisticbrain.com/average-costs-of-an-american-wedding

Should We Seek Perfection, Progress, or Neither?

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The following blog was first posted on LiftUpYourDay.com. Click over to their site for more encouragement!


 

For years, the media has sold us an image of perfection. We idolize celebrities and models in movies, TV shows, and print ads. We envy their photo-shopped looks and overflowing bank accounts, all the while feeling totally inadequate in comparison. In response to this, the following advice has become commonplace: “Seek progress, not perfection.” Apparently, Hollywood can be perfect, but we common folk should settle for progress.

However, lately I’ve been hearing a new message: “You’re perfect just the way you are.” So, now it doesn’t matter what we say or do; we just have to wake up in the morning to be perfect. And since everyone is perfect, no one has to feel pressured to seek progress.

Each of these messages can be used to justify our actions (or lack thereof). So, what’s the truth? Do we seek perfection, progress, or neither? As Christians, we should look to the Bible for our answer.

 

Be Perfect

One of the grandest statements in Scripture is found in Matthew 5. After admonishing the disciples to love their enemies, Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 NAS).

If we can’t even compare to celebrities, how can we be perfect as God is perfect? How should we interpret this today?

First, note that Jesus was NOT talking about heaven. He simply said the disciples would be perfect if they loved and obeyed God and loved their fellow man. As Jesus’ disciples today, this applies to us, too.

Second, the word “perfect” here is derived from the Greek word teleios, meaning “complete” or “having reached its end.” This does NOT mean that we’ll gain special powers, that we’ll stop making mistakes, or that we’ll never need to ask for forgiveness again. I will NOT become Super Woman, and you will NOT become Anne Hathaway.

However, this Scripture DOES mean that we’ll become complete, mature versions of ourselves—the epitome of what God intended us to be when He created us. I’ll be the perfect me, and you’ll be the perfect you.

 

Make Progress

I’ve heard parents say they wish their children could remain babies forever, but they don’t really mean that. Instead, they want what is best for their children: for them to grow and mature until they realize their full potential as adults. As our Heavenly Father, God wants the same thing for us!

Paul explained that we must “grow up in all aspects into Him” (Ephesians 4:15 NAS). He then said that we should use our talents and the roles God gives us within the Church Body “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13 NAS, emphasis mine).

The word “mature” here is the same word teleios meaning, “perfect, complete, having reached its end.” In other words, we should strive toward righteousness, obedience, and unity, growing in the knowledge of the Lord until the whole Church Body is where it should be.

This act of maturing, of perfecting, is not a one-time activity! It is not relegated to the point of salvation, baptism, or confirmation. Instead, it covers a lifelong pursuit of God and His holiness in our lives.

And God expects us to make progress.

 

Progress in the Pursuit of Perfection

God is not concerned with the world’s definition of perfection, and neither should we. The media’s messages might tickle the ears, but they are empty of real truth. God’s message is much more meaningful and valuable! His Word says that we should seek Him first, and that we should strive to be what He made us to be so we can do what He’s called us to do.

In other words, we should make progress in the pursuit of God’s perfection.

If this is a new concept for you, I encourage you to study these verses and meditate on their meaning. If you feel convicted to make progress in your spiritual life, ask the Lord what steps you should take. Then, stand in faith that, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6b NAS).


I’d love to know your thoughts on this post! Have you struggled with the concept of perfection? Is the idea of progressing in your journey a new one for you? Please leave a comment or send me a private message. Thanks for reading BigSisterKnows!

A Race Worth Running

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I don’t run. Ever. When it comes to fight or flight, my natural response is to stand my ground. And as far as exercise goes…well, let’s just say I don’t own a pair of jogging shorts.

In fact, if you ever do catch me running, something really horrible must be chasing me—like a homicidal snow beast wielding a basket full of spiders. In that case, I suggest that we all run until we reach the next town.

 

What are We Running From?

Some people are born to run, and I’m beginning to think the apostle Paul was one of them. Throughout his pastoral letters in the New Testament, he references running or fleeing several times, and yet none of those situations involve snow beasts. So, what exactly are we supposed to be running from?

Paul specifically mentions the following:

  • Sexual immorality (1 Cor 6:18)
  • Idolatry (1 Cor 10:14)
  • Love of money (1 Tim 6:10-11)
  • Youthful desires that cause division in the church (2 Tim 2:22-23)

In other words, we should flee from sin.

And what should we run to?

  • Righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness (1 Tim 6:11)
  • Peace, kindness, and patience (2 Tim 2:22-26)

Or, as Moses simply put it, we should run to God. (See Deut 4:29.)

 

How Do We Prepare? 

A marathon runner doesn’t simply wake up one day, lace his shoes, and then run 26.2 miles. He has to commit himself to daily discipline for months just so he can compete well and avoid ending up in the hospital.

Paul referenced this need for discipline in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things…I discipline my body and make it my slave…” (1 Corinthians 9:25 and 27a NAS).

Paul is saying here that we should approach our spiritual journey with the same effort and diligence of an athlete training for a competition. However, we can’t develop this level of discipline overnight. Instead, it must be cultivated over time through such spiritual exercises as learning God’s Word, developing a spirit of obedience, and loving others as we love ourselves. Only by stretching these spiritual muscles can we hope to run the race well.

 

What Do We Win?

Nevertheless, discipline should never be developed for its own sake. The runner doesn’t train so he can train some more. He trains so he can run the official race and lay claim to the prize!

“Run in such a way that you may win. … [Those who compete] do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air…”  (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NAS).

Here, Paul says we should run our spiritual race so that we may win. But what is this imperishable prize he’s referring to? Fortunately, he provides some clarification:

  • “I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” (1 Cor 9:23)
  • “But I discipline my body and make it my slave, so…I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Cor 9:27)
  • “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philip 3:13)

In these verses, Paul isn’t referring to salvation but sanctification—that process where we become more holy, and more like Jesus, as we grow closer to Him. Discipline is an important part of that sanctification process because it enables us to grow closer to the Lord—and that is the ultimate prize.

 

Run With Purpose

Perhaps you’re one of those people who love to jog, sprint, or do the Cliffy shuffle across the country. Or maybe you’re more like me, and just the thought of lacing up those tennis shoes makes you want to take a nap. Either way, we should all seek to discipline ourselves spiritually so that we can run the most important of races—away from sin and toward the One who has forgiven us.

May you run with purpose and lay hold of the Prize.

 

“Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40:31 NAS).