I promise to love you…as long as I’m happy

My grandparents were married for more than 50 years–both sets.  Their parents before them also married young and were together until parted by death.  And those grandparents and great-grandparents lived through emigrating to a new world, two World Wars and the Great Depression, so life was not “easy” for them.  Why is it that those generations “before” survived with their marriages in tact, and current generations have a better than 50% chance of divorce…and are likely to do it over and over again?
The answer to this nagging question is one word: COMMITMENT.
When my grandparents and their parents uttered their wedding vows, it was in a society that understood the idea that a man was only as good as his word–and that a commitment meant responsibility and obligation.  When they married, it wasn’t due to butterflies in the stomach infatuation that they expected would continue for their whole life.  Those were generations that understood that a marriage vow was entering into a voluntary contract with another person for life to form a stable family unit and beyond.  They understood that they were not always going to be “happy” and that sometimes happiness comes from being patient and waiting.
Somewhere in the 60’s and 70’s the shift changed from honoring “family and commitment” to honoring only what brings up pleasure right now.  In an article addressing this concept, I love you…for right now, the author Lady Grier talks about how the strong lifelong commitments of past generations has been replaced by an attitude of “oh well, I’m tired of him/her.”  Everywhere I look, people are being advised to leave their marriages and divorce “because after all you deserve to be happy”  … and apparently you have to be happy right now!! In addition, she notes that men today don’t know what it means to really provide for a family or be the head of the household; and likewise women today expect men to be emasculated metrosexuals and “submit” is a fighting word!  Civil marriage vows still say: “I, ____, take you, ____, for my lawful (husband/wife), to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health and, forsaking all others, be faithful to you until death us do part” and yet to be completely honest, they probably should say: “I, ___, take you, ___, for my lawful (husband/wife), to have and to hold as long as I feel like it, from this day for better, for richer, in health and as long as the sex is good.  If I am unhappy or it becomes for worse, for poorer, in sickness or someone comes along who flirts more or who makes me happier, I can’t really promise I’ll be faithful.”
Marriage vows mean more than a party and a great dress.  Marriage vows are effectively a business contract between the three individuals: the husband, the wife, and God.  When you make a vow you are voluntarily telling your spouse in front of God what you are promising: that you will dedicate 100% of your affection and loyalty to them and them only as long as you are alive.  In exchange for that promise, you have a companion on all that life sends you–the good and the bad. Unfortunately you can not get the benefits of honoring that vow without also accepting the responsibilities of honoring that vow.  For our instant gratification generation, that means that it will not always be easy…and you’ll stay because you decide to stay.  That means you will not always “be happy” but that if you want to have a happy relationship you can create it…not leave.  That means that when it gets tough, you made a promise and you are a man (or woman) of your word and you stick it out. But even beyond honoring our promises and once again become people who value our word, we need to put our focus on God:
Heb. 12:1-4
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (NIV)
 These verses tell us not to focus on ourselves, our neighbors, other couples or even others in the Church–we are to focus on the love that Christ showed us and demonstrate THAT level of love and commitment to our spouse.

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