The other day as I was riding along in my car, I heard the popular radio ethicist Dr. Laura admonish a caller who was encountering some difficulty in her relationship with her husband. Even though Dr. Laura was speaking with a young bride, the counsel she gave hit home equally with me, as it should with all husbands.
After hearing the young newlywed (she had been married for only three months) explain the reasons why she wanted to do something that she knew would upset her husband, Dr. Laura asked her if she remembered her wedding vows. There was a pronounced silence. Then she asked the young lady if she remembered the dress she wore, what the flowers were like, what food was served at the reception. Of course these things registered in the young bride’s memory quite clearly.
The point was well taken. A few days after hearing this exchange on the radio, I dug out the cassette tape recording of my own wedding ceremony. I listened again to the vows I took that day and thought about their meaning: “To have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish as long as we both shall live.” Fortunately, nothing in these vows struck an unfamiliar chord. But it made me think about the solemnity of the commitment into which I entered that day.
Any young [people] contemplating marriage would do well to consider the serious and lifelong obligation that these vows represent. I have heard that it is not uncommon today in some circles for marriage vows to end with the phrase “as long as love shall last.” This is a sad trend, for marriage was never intended to be a commitment that lasts only as long as one’s emotions can sustain it, but rather it is a commitment for life, sustained by God.
I read in the paper the other day about the high profile divorce of two of Hollywood’s top movie stars. The article reported that the two had decided to split because the marriage was, to paraphrase, getting in the way of their careers. One wonders how the marriage vows of this couple must have read. How very sad for their two young children, who are the innocent victims of this breakup.
Of course, it isn’t easy to always maintain the vows of marriage. The enemy tries his best to sneak in and drive whatever wedges he can between a man and his wife. There are a hundred decisions that enter life every day that impact in one way or the other on the health and well-being of a marriage. These decisions can be as simple as how many gallons of milk to pick up at the store. Or they can be weightier matters involving the children’s education, or what house to buy. In none of these matters can a man afford to be without the direction of the Holy Spirit.
One of the blessed benefits of the restoration of the Holy Spirit to His proper place and emphasis in the Kingdom of God, is that He is always available to help direct the thoughts and decisions of husbands as they face the challenges of married life. To the extent that we as married men (or unmarried men for that matter) give the Holy Spirit free rein in our lives to direct our decisions and thoughts, we have the assistance of God Himself in keeping ourselves pure and faithful to the calling we have been given.
In his Through the Eternal Spirit, author James Elder Cumming summarizes the matter thus: “Obedience to the dictates of [the voice of the Holy Spirit] is our absolute duty, and walking in it is the distinctive mark of the spiritual man.” Let’s learn to listen to that Voice as we trust Him to help us keep our vows in every detail. ∎
—Retired from a Naval and business career, and recently having completed some extended bicycle treks, John and his wife Brenda have joined the staff at Fairwood. This article first appeared in 2001, especially directed toward men.