‘Will you love him, comfort him, honour and protect him, and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?’
Marriage Declaration, Church of England
In a few months, I shall promise in front of all my friends and family to forsake all others and be faithful to my husband as long as we both shall live. How can a 24-year-old make such an audacious commitment? A lifetime is exactly that – a lifetime! So much will change over the course of our lives, including us. How can I know that I’ll always love the person who stands at the altar with me?
The answer is that I won’t.
There will be times when I don’t feel like I love my husband, particularly when life gets tough and we’re both weary. There will be times when loving him will be to my detriment. There will be times when I have to make sacrifices to uphold my commitment to him. Yet, knowing that, I am still choosing to promise to comfort, honour and protect him for the rest of my life. Here are the reasons why.
Firstly, the sacrifice of commitment is worth the cost because love flourishes within a covenantal commitment. Popstar Ariane Grande sang in one of her recent hits ‘I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it’, speaking of her desire and ability to have whatever she wants, whenever she wants it. Our society is pervaded by this instant gratification mindset – we don’t like to wait for anything! However, relational love, trust, and devotion are not quickly achieved; we must commit to pursuing them. In choosing to love our partners when it feels impossible and standing by their side when our minds are drifting elsewhere, we will come to love them more deeply than ever before.
Secondly, to reap the harvest of marital commitment we must fully throw ourselves into it, not nervously dip a toe in to test the temperature of the water. Being half hearted when it comes to commitment may feel like you’re protecting yourself, but the result is that you get neither the strong marriage you hoped for nor the protection you want. Cohabitation is a way many couples ‘test the water’ before commitment, but research shows that cohabitation before marriage leads to a higher rate of divorce than couples who did not cohabit before marriage. In the act of letting go, you will experience vulnerability. Terrifying. Naked. Vulnerability. Yet, in the midst of this vulnerability we will feel more known and loved than before. This intimacy cannot be achieved without vulnerability and being vulnerable requires the security from rejection which is found in commitment.
Finally, marital commitment is a picture of God’s love for us. The story of Hosea in the Old Testament is a powerful illustration of God’s commitment to His people. In the story God tells Hosea to go and marry an unfaithful woman named Gomer, to draw a parallel between God’s commitment to Israel despite their unfaithfulness (Hosea 1). After having children, Gomer is unfaithful to Hosea, and although he is distraught, God tells Hosea to ‘go, show love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man’ (Hosea 3). This illustration highlights God’s unfailing love of us, that even when we turn away, He relentlessly pursues us. Just as God promises to love us, despite our broken and unfaithful hearts, I will promise to love and commit to my husband.
I choose, therefore, to commit to my future husband because I know my commitment is grounded in God’s secure and steadfast commitment to me.