So I had most of Valentine’s Day to myself. I turned schmaltzy romance movies on TV and begin to think about Valentine’s Day and love. What resulted was a three-part blog about love, vows and romance. Yes, it’s after Valentine’s Day, but I hope you’ll stick with me for the next three days because I’m confident that there are questions in these blogs that will help us keep the romance alive in our marriages – although you might find your definition of romance being slightly altered before you get to the end.

Vows are Made for Keeping
I watched a television program last week in which one of the characters learned that a friend she had known for years had been in love with her all along, but had been too shy to say anything. So fifteen years ago she married someone else. To him, it appeared that her marriage had long ago gone stale. Upon learning that this dear friend had loved her all along, she said to another friend, “I made a decision fifteen years ago. And I continue to make that decision every day.” What a great quote! If everyone who was married had the perspective that they were making the same decision every day, there would be fewer divorces and, I think, many happier marriages. Perhaps to the reader it sounds like the quote was said out of martyrdom or self-pity. No, they were said softly, but with conviction and purpose and a determination to remember that decision of fifteen years earlier and all that went into it, and to make that same decision every day of her life.

So all this got me to thinking about the wedding vows my husband and I took more than thirty years ago.

I, Sandra Jane Parks, take you Philip Glen Hovatter, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.

The truth is that I was not a Christian at the time I made those vows, and I made them madly in love, but with the reservation in my heart that if the marriage did not work out, I would not live in an unhappy marriage for the rest of my life. Twice since then we have renewed our vows, in both cases after I came to know Christ as Savior and Friend. The vows have more meaning to me now than they did the first time I said them.

Phil and I have been blessed with an incredibly happy marriage – a feat we credit primarily to God and in a minor part to one another (I to him and he to me) because neither of us grew up in households where our parents had loving marriages and we each figure the other one has more to put up with than we do (a great attitude to have for a good marriage).

At the risk of making our marriage a target, I’d like to offer some questions and comments to spur us on to better marriages – marriages with steel spines and unbreakable wills. Questions and comments that may help us focus on continuing to make that decision to be married every day.

“To have and to hold” – Do we take time to hold one another often? It’s so easy to fall into “business as usual” in a marriage. String too many of those days together and soon we begin to treat our co-workers and employees better than our spouse. When my husband leaves I nearly always make a point of meeting him at the door and giving him a kiss goodbye. Worst case, I yell from the basement or the second floor “I love you! See you soon!” I don’t ever want him to leave without me telling him how important he is to me.

“From this day forward” – As far as I can tell, it is still “forward.” I’m to do all the things I’ve promised, beginning on our wedding day and all the days after. This is so important, that it is reinforced by the last line – “from this day forward until death do us part.” Am I still doing all those things every day?

“For better or for worse” – If you’ve been married more than a week, you already realize that there are “worse” days. Not only do you realize it, you’ve experienced it. If you’ve been married several years, perhaps you’ve experienced many “worse” days strung together. But the vow we made was to have and to hold during those worse days – to say “I love you” during the worse days, not just the better days; to do our part to make worse days better, and better days even better. Worse days are not days for bailing. They’re days for loving.

“For richer, for poorer” – Phil and I have been both. Actually, we’re in a “poorer” stage right now. I’m incredibly thankful for the richer days and I’m also thankful for the poorer ones. In the poorer days, I appreciate my husband as much as in the richer days. He is still the man I love, respect and married. His character and nature haven’t changed because there is less money in the bank or because we eat rice and beans instead of our favorite restaurant foods.

“In sickness and in health” – Again, we’ve had “sickness” days and “health” days. I’m not a good caregiver, so the sickness days challenge me. I have to regularly remind myself how much I love my husband, how thankful I am when he serves me in sickness, and how horrible I feel when I’m sick. But I signed up for both. I don’t intend to break a vow just because of the inconvenience of sickness. I’m choosing, each day, to make the same decision I made more than thirty years ago.

“To love and to cherish” – I love that both words “love” and “cherish” are used in the phrase. To me, they connotatively mean something very different. “Love” is the holding very tightly to one’s chest kind of emotion; “cherish” is the gently stroking one’s face kind of emotion. Both are needed in a healthy marriage.

It can be easy to forget what the word “love” means, especially in our society that has the meaning of the word quite jumbled. Tomorrow’s blog will look at what Scripture says about love and we’ll ask ourselves some pointed questions to see if we’re on track.

These are the vows I took on July 1, 1978. As the character in the television show said, “I make them again every day.” It is my pleasure to do so, and it is my honor to do so – because vows are made for keeping.

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