The last time the West Coast contingent of the Spears family came together was for Mama’s funeral. This past weekend we came from up (Los Angeles) and down (Seattle) the West Coast for my nephew Robert’s wedding.
Robert is the youngest of Brother John’s boys.
Grandma Shelby loved all her grandchildren but she was fiercely protective of Robert, who, as his best man stated, posesses “a childlike faith in God.”
You know how every person in every family has backstory, and those stories often tell things about our personalities? The story everyone tells on Robert is the one about when he put some homeless people up in a hotel room and they took advantage of him. It’s a story that reveals a lot about Robert, about how good and kind-hearted he is, about how he loves people with abandon, wholly and completely. In our family, when we talk about who is the best of us all, Robert leads the list. Grandma Shebly wasn’t the only one fiercly protective of Robert. We all feel that way about him. You feel that way about anything valuable, any treasure. Robert is our family’s treasure.
Tim and I were delighted when Robert brought his bride-to-be to meet us last year. Jasmine is a jewel. In her vows to Robert she promised to never withhold ice cream from him, even if it was for his own good. This was after Robert promised to always share his ice cream with her, which got the whole hay bale sitting crowd to giggling.
But the thing that struck me, the thing that has stayed with me, the thing that caused tears to stream down my face was when Robert asked God to deal fiercely with him should he ever break his vows to Jasmine.
Oh. My. Gosh.
I can’t even imagine asking God to ever deal fiercely with me. I’ve spent a lifetime hoping, praying God would never deal fiercely with me.
But here was a man in love standing in front of a woman he loves asking God to punish him if he ever deserted her for any reason.
Can you even imagine it?
This in a country where half of all marriages end in divorce.
I wonder if all marriages wouldn’t be far more successful if we all took a more Robert-like approach to what it means to take an oath before God. Robert is keenly aware that his oath wasn’t just to Jasmine but to God as well.
People make all sorts of promises they never intend to keep. They don’t take seriously that when they marry they are making an oath before the Lord God Almighty. Creator of Heaven and Earth.
Too often, we don’t think about how our broken promises affect children. We have convinced ourselves that the only thing that matters is the here and right now. Our children will have to find their own happiness. Our primary concern is our own happiness, not our obligation to each other, our families, and our God.
Can you imagine how healing a vow like Robert’s could be to a child of divorce? That’s what I was thinking about as my nephew invited God to deal harshly with him should he ever turn his back on his wife.
Imagine if we all took seriously our vows before God, whatever those vows may concern.
No question about it. Marriage can be, as one pastor mentioned this weekend, like a fairytale: The one in which you put Tom Sawyer and Cinderella in a submarine together. A sure-fire tale of one choatic moment after another.
There is no magic formula to making marriage work.
But a good place to start, the only place to start, is to realize that the vows we make are not only to each other, but first and foremost vows to Creator God.
The vows we break affect not only us but the generations to come.