As David and I begin our 13th year of marriage, I find myself still reflecting on the promises we made to each other on our wedding day. I marvel still at the sense of naïveté with which we spoke those words. With which we wrote those words.

Because, yes, we decided to write our own vows.

And, if truth be told, as the writer, I wrought most of the words. Even the words David said. Yes, they were based on things he had written to me in our long-distance emails and they were based on things he had said to me. But, still, they were more my words than his {mind you, he read them and edited them, but still}.

But still. They were more my words than his because there wasn’t enough time for him to write them. Because we’d waited too long to write our vows. Because he had to wrestle with words more than I did. Because there were so many other things that we needed to do.

When I reflect on those things, I realize they speak to something more than the vows we exchanged. True those words, spoken by me and spoken by him, were filled with hope. With joy. With expectation. With idealism.

But were they a true expression of us? Of what we expected? Or were they simply words written for a ceremony? Words wrought for a celebration that was more about creating a moment, a single experience for us and for our guests, rather than creating a way through the world together. Words intended more as a single performance than a life-long promise.

As I read those vows today, I admit that some ring true. But some? Well, some are pretty lofty. Pretty in their sentiment, but not in their reflection of our hearts. In fact, they sound almost prideful. Arrogantly pious. As if marriage were a contest to be won rather than a journey to be shared. As if I had something to prove. To family. To doubters. To those who went before and those who would come after.

Look at me, they seem to shout. And that may have been part of my motivation leading up to that day.

But now?

Well, now, they convict me in thought and attitude. They reflect a definite yearning, a desire to live up to their ideals however lofty they may appear in writing. After living out 12 years together {knowing each other for 13}, I can say with conviction that those words were not mine. Nor were they David’s. They were God’s whisper to us.

The whisper of his promises for us.

The whisper of what we are capable of creating together. Together with him.

The whisper of what he wants to do with us as we live out our lives.

The whisper of his goodness, his blessings, his grace.

The whisper of his presence whatever we face.

The whisper of his joy.

The whisper of his faithfulness.

The whisper of his heart to ours.

The whisper of abundant, amazing life in him.

So although the vows we exchanged on our wedding day seemed but words to celebrate a snapshot moment in our lives, the echo of God’s whisper never truly faded. Not from my memory. Not from my heart. But as with many God-touched moments, recalling the truth of what is requires effort. It requires time.

The effort of time spent with him. The effort of being still and quiet. The effort of listening. The effort of faith.

Because like a relationship with God, my relationship with David requires me to show up. To be present. It means we cannot decide that there isn’t enough time because there is too much else to do. Like trusting God, marriage requires faith, hope and love.  And I can do none of these without God.

Which is why he reminds me daily through my shared life with David how much I need him. And why his still small whisper from our wedding day still echoes in our marriage. In every struggle. In every celebration. In every disagreement. In every weak moment. In every shared dream.

In every ideal we spoke. And continue to speak.

Here were the ideals I held that day:

David, I have such a sense of excitement and anticipation as I stand here today before you, before God and before our families and friends to commit myself to you in Christian marriage. You are for me tangible proof that God gives us more than we can ask or imagine and when I look at you I cannot describe the joy and thanksgiving that fills my heart to overflowing. Surely goodness and mercy do follow me all my days and my cup overflows with blessings. I am thankful that you will be there to remind me every day of those blessings when I am not inclined to do so because I am too caught up with life’s busyness.

You shine with the light and love of Christ in real ways in this often-cynical world, and I promise before God and these witnesses to be your wife, to love you, to pray with you and to pray for you, to encourage you to develop God’s gifts and talents in your life and in your work, and to live with you according to God’s purposes; I will try to keep God at the center of our relationship so that we are a cord of three strands not easily broken and so that with God’s help we truly can be content in all circumstances; with God’s help, I will humble myself before God and seek to serve you as Christ commands. I promise to laugh with you in joy, to grieve with you in sorrow, to grow with you in love, to forgive and to strengthen you, and to join with you so that we may serve God, each other and our community according to Christ’s example. David, I desire to become all that God wants me to be for you.

David, we cannot know what the future will bring, but we know that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, and I promise to cling to that truth as we embark on this journey of Christian marriage and, with you, to receive every day as a gift from God.

This is a commitment made in love, kept in faith and lived in hope, and eternally made new.

And here were David’s ideals (as penned mostly by me) on that day:

Judy, you are my beloved and my friend and I am excited to make this commitment to you today, knowing that God brought us together, that he worked in our lives to prepare us for the day he would introduce us to each other, and that he worked in our hearts to prepare us for this day, the day we will marry. I look forward with great anticipation to the journey we begin today. Today we begin a partnership, each having our own identity, but becoming one in Christ. Your faith has inspired me and encouraged me and I look forward to sharing a journey of faith with you.

Judy, you are the one whom my heart loves, an ever-present light in this world and I promise before God and these witnesses to be your husband, to love you, to pray with you and to pray for you, to encourage you to develop God’s gifts and talents in your life and in your work, and to live with you according to God’s purposes; I will try to keep God at the center of our relationship so that we are a cord of three strands not easily broken and so that with God’s help we truly can be content in all circumstances; with God’s help, I will humble myself before God and seek to serve you as Christ commands. I promise to laugh with you in joy, to grieve with you in sorrow, to grow with you in love, to forgive and to strengthen you, and to join with you so that we may serve God, each other and our community according to Christ’s example. Judy, I desire to become all that God wants me to be for you.

Judy, we cannot know what the future will bring, but we know that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, and I promise to cling to that truth as we embark on this journey of Christian marriage and, with you, to receive every day as a gift from God.

This is a commitment made in love, kept in faith and lived in hope, and eternally made new.

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