May 28th is the anniversary of our wedding. It was twenty-seven years ago this week that Tammy and I entered into the covenant of marriage. Even when the now fading pictures were bright with color and newness, they could tell only a small part of the story. Young faces, luminous in their garments of hope, laced with fear of the unknown.
I was an idealist and she was the pragmatist. We began with little but the best of intentions. I believe we meant it when we said the words, "Till death do us part," yet in my heart my fingers where crossed as I refused to grasp the weight of those words. I know there was no way to fully embrace the reality of those words on that warm evening in May of 1982.
Now I often stand at the altar with young couples, many of them as idealistic as I was the night of my own wedding. I lead them to repeat the same vows, and I know they have no more clue of their reality than Tammy or I did years ago; nonetheless, vows matter. We make vows not just for those warm, clear nights when stars twinkle with hope. We make vows that are weighted with truth and value for a thousand dark storms that threaten to blot out those stars. We make vows to love, honor, and cherish. We make vows to endure because enduring is essential in this, the one human relationship that challenges our self-centeredness to its core. We make vows that sustain commitment through sickness, poverty, and worse.
Everyone needs ideals that guide them through reality. We all need to take them seriously and think of them more often than we do. We ought never to forget what we pledge on that day. I’m blessed to officiate for many couples who make such vows, and thus I’m reminded more often than most. As they repeat these solemn words I wonder how little they truly understand what they are pledging themselves to. Yet I’m happy to repeat them over and again. These vows remind me that God adores the serious commitment as much as the celebration of that commitment. He officiates our wedding days, knowing full well the storms that await us. He smiles, knowing that those who take him seriously he greatly helps. He is my help, and today I remember and celebrate that it was with Him that Tammy and I entered into this covenant. He knew the very moment that covenant would be completed and yet remained utterly silent about it so as not to remove the mystery of his ways or to place an impediment to our growing faith. He kept his end of the bargain with great faithfulness. We kept ours by his grace and good favor.
Now I stand on the threshold of making those same vows again. This time the repetition of these words will be tempered by a better sense of how they’re often lived out. Sorrow and pain have informed my intellect but have not stolen my passion, for by his grace I stand on the other side of that covenant with the ideal intact and passion undiminished. That is a miracle.