Wedding Vows Revisited

I recently did a destination wedding in Bermuda. The husband was a Regional Director for Geico and the Bride was a Bank Branch Manager. In a foreign country, you need a local official to do the vows, pronounce them “husband and wife,” plus sign the license. Still, the couple wanted me to do as much of the ceremony as possible.

So, I did the welcome and prayer plus a message on the biblical foundation for marriage. I then explained that the local leader would be taking over, “But first,” I said, “I have some special vows to administer…

“Do you then David, faithfully promise in the presence of God in front of these witnesses to follow all of the instructions found in the ‘Banking Diva Maintenance Manual?” The groom stared at me speechless…his eyes as big as softballs. “I didn’t hear an answer,” I asserted. “Oh…I do—I DO!” he affirmed as everyone chuckled. “And to the bride, do you Leanne, faithfully promise in the presence of God and these witnesses to save a ton of money by switching to Geico?”  People roared. “I DO, in fact I DID!” she said while laughing.

“Good,” I said, “I’ll now turn the ceremony over….”

To Vow or Not to Vow?

We’ve enjoyed watching the video of this little tease over and over. It has been quite popular on Facebook. Still, I’d be remiss if I didn’t emphasize the importance of the actual vows in a wedding ceremony. It has become quite popular to rewrite them and create our own. A lot of couples do this. I allow that in my ceremonies, but always include more traditional, biblical commitments as well.

Why?

Well, first I’d ask why as well…why do we want to change or delete them? I would argue that the very reason for deleting/editing them is the purpose for having them! The CHALLENGE and maybe even FRIGHTEN us.

The Traditional Vows

Here’s a sample of the vows I use in my traditional service:

Do you then, __________________ (his FIRST name), faithfully promise and covenant before God, in the presence of these witnesses, to take ______________ (her FULL name) to be your lawful, wedded wife for as long as you both shall live, to love her cherish her, honor her, respect her and provide for her? (Goom’s answer)

And do you, __________________ (her FIRST name), faithfully promise and covenant before God in the presence of these witnesses, to take __________________ (his FULL name) to be your lawful, wedded husband for as long as you both shall love, to love him, cherish him, honor him, comfort him and respect him? (Bride’s answer)

Have the couple face each other and join hands.

Beginning with the bridegroom, would you please repeat after me:

“I, __________________ (his FULL name), take you __________________ (her FIRST name) to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death do us part. Thereto I pledge you my faith” [or, “I promise you this”]

And now the bride:

“I, __________________ (her FULL name), take you __________________ (his FIRST name) to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death do us part. Thereto I pledge you my faith” [or, “I promise you this”]

A Promise, Covered by a Promise

This is heavy. Let’s not minimize it!

In the presence of God and perhaps hundreds of witnesses, we’re saying we’ll care for, love, protect, serve and stick together till death!! No WONDER we want to change or eliminate this stuff! Wow!

But here’s the thing. These vows are Biblical. A survey of Jesus’ words in Matthew 19 or Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 5, etc., shows us that this is exactly what God expects. The good news is that He helps us fulfill them and honors us when we submit to that. As scary as they are, these vows are a promise covered by another promise from Jesus that he would always be with us (Matthew 28:20, etc.).

So if you’re married, refocus on your commitment and ask God to empower you as you live it out. If you’re not married, approach the possibilities with a sober reality of the serious nature of the vows you may take someday. In both cases–recognize that God has made the same commitment to you–for all eternity.

In His Love,

Pastor Joel

Relationship Rules

Our church had a plethora of problems moving into a more permanent space in Newington, CT. The Zoning and Planning office had giving us no end of grief with regulations—some I think contrived—and rules which cost us hours of labor and over $15,000 in architectural drawing fees.

When we finally moved into our current space, they refused to give us a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) because our bathroom sign was “too high.” I asked if I could move it and they said, “No,” but rather would have to schedule a follow-up inspection. (Great use of taxpayer $.)

I moved the sign down 6” or so and they came back. After they gave me the CO, I asked the inspector, “So, may I ask, respectfully, why did we need to lower that sign.” “Obviously,” he said, “so that a blind person in a wheelchair can read the braille.” “Hmmm,” I replied, “What about the ambulatory blind person who now can’t find the sign—let alone the braille—since it’s now down around his knees?” “I don’t make the rules,” he retorted, “I just enforce them.”

Wow…and we want the government to handle our healthcare?!

Ah, but lest I digress into a political diatribe, let’s ask, “What does this have to do with marriage and relationships?”

EVERYTHING!!

As couples, we have rules in our relationships. Some of them written or at least clearly stated–others, just “understood.” For example, there are normally “rules” about who mows the lawn or who does dinner dishes, who pays the bills, and who does the grocery shopping, etc.

These things are necessary. Without clarity on who’s responsible for what, there can be chaos. Still, like our government, some of us like to add rules on top of the necessary rules–creating a minefield of potential problems.

My advice to couples is that rules in a relationship are like budgets or bed sheets. They are important, but need to be changed from time to time. That’s why I suggest having an open, regular discussions about these things with a constant openness and flexibility toward adjustments.

For example, a job and travel schedule change might necessitate a change in responsibilities at home. The point is to be flexible and help each other through it! The question to ask is, “Does this rule need to be maintained or am I resistant to change due to a lack of personal comfort?” If it’s for personal comfort, maybe let it go… Rules are supposed to provide support, not hindrance to your marriage…as long as they’re functioning that way–you’re in good shape!

Having a balance of structure and freedom is the key…

 

To that end,

Pastor Joel

Saying the “Right Thing” at the “Right Time”

I did a funeral a few years ago for a real practical joker. His family loved him dearly and his son had “picked-up the mantel” of pranks and teases. So, it was only fitting that when Dad died, his son attached a whoopee cushion noisemaker to the bottom of the casket. The machine was operated by remote control so that he could “let it rip” from anywhere in the room.

People would somberly walk up to the casket, peer in, and as they were contemplating Dad’s mortality as well as their own, “Rrrrrrrrrttttttt!”

Reactions differed. Some gave an embarrassed poke to their spouse next to them. Others stood in shock with their jaws on the floor wondering how it was biologically possible for a dead person to pass gas. Some just laughed and searched the room to find the guilty party giggling hysterically in the corner with his remote control in hand.

My favorite part of the morning was the Governor’s Honor Guard. The deceased had been a member of this elite troop such that they marched in uniform up to his casket, did an about face and with their backs to the casket, stood at attention for a brief presentation. That was the moment my friend pushed the button.  “Rrrrrrrrippppptttttzzzz!”

The soldiers tried to stare straight ahead, but their searching eyes said it all. Each of them was trying to figure out which of their comrades had eaten a burrito before the funeral. They tried to analyze what had happened, while trying to maintain composure and decorum.

While crass, it WAS funny…

When it came time for me to preach the funeral message, I made a detour on the way to the pulpit. Instead of walking straight to the front, I first walked down the aisle to my prankster friend, leaned over to him and gave him the following comfort in his time of grief.

If you touch that button while I’m preaching, you’re going to join your Dad in that casket—do you understand me?”

Sometimes you just have to know what to say to those suffering a loss….

Seriously, knowing what to say and when to say it is difficult–seemingly impossible at times. Speakers, preachers, sales people, all of us struggle with this issue. I find the toughest scenario regarding communication and timing to be int he day-to-day interaction between husbands and wives.

It seems that married people often are silent when they should speak or they speak when they should be silent. Often it’s the wife’s challenge in saying something that’s encouraging versus inflammatory.

So how can we “fix” this problem? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Before you speak or choose to remain silent, ask this simple question–“What would this person find most encouraging or helpful right now?” If you can’t answer that question, pray about it and maybe ask someone else for advice before you act or speak.
  2. Consider the personality of your partner. My book “Whole 4 Life” looks at this in detail, but if you know the personal style of your partner, you also know how he/she communicates.
  3. Stay positive and hopeful. Even if you must give a criticism or suggestion, couch it in positive, forward-looking terms. Nobody likes to be beat-up and left lying there. Make even the negative points in the context of positive improvement you believe is possible.
  4. Use scripture or encouraging quotes. Sometimes you don’t have to say anything original, you just need to let someone else do the talking for you.
  5. Most importantly, ask questions. Often, what your partner REALLY needs isn’t your mouth–it’s your ears. If you’re in doubt about what to say, it may be an indication of your partner’s need to be heard first. Stephen Covey put it well in his book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” He said we should “Seek first to understand…then, to be understood.”

We offer helpful resources on communication on our resources page. These include my book, “Communicate to Lead” as well as the aforementioned, “Whole 4 Life.” Click Here to learn more.

Blessings,

Pastor Joel