What do you remember most vividly about your wedding day? What stands out? I’m sure the venue, guests, decorations and even the food was spectacular. However, what most people would say stands out the most is the person they came there for that day – their spouse. I’ll never forget my beautiful bride walking down the aisle – time stood still. Everything we had planned for was now coming to pass. Did anything humorous happen? My aunt from Georgia dropped her dentures down the garbage disposal and could not make it. I stood in our soon to be living room in another city somehow without a car waiting for a distant aunt and uncle on my wife’s side of the family whom I’d never met to pick me up for my own wedding. I’m still not sure how that happened. It was interesting, to say the least, as I rode to one of the most important events of my life the back seat of a stranger’s pickup truck 19 years ago.
I’ll never forget the words of our wedding vows. They were lengthy, but I’ve used those same vows probably over a hundred times since then in other weddings I’ve preached. Wedding vows are important, probably the most important words you will ever say to your spouse. Saying them isn’t the issue – keeping them is. Almost every couple in every wedding has said something like this to one another, “I, (name), take you (name), to be my lawfully wedded (wife/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.” Those words may seem like a blur when you said them at the marriage altar but they are foundational to marriage. I believe the most important phrase in this statement is “to love and to cherish”. I’ve had people ask me what my favorite Bible verse on love is and I often say, “There are two…’For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son’ (John 3:16) and ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8, 16)”. The first one shows us the greatest expression of love and the second one defines love. God is the standard – God equals love. We cannot truly love our spouses every day till separation by death without these anchors of love.
Cherish means to hold close, show affection, and nurture. This only happens because of God’s love. So, one cannot love and cherish every single day without having experienced the truth and expression of God’s love for us through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Think about the word cherish with me a little more. If your house was on fire, what would you run out of it with (or maybe run back in to save)? Your family, kids, pets, and if time your phone, photo albums, heirloom jewelry, and that favorite coffee mug…you know the important stuff. You would hold your loved ones close to protect them and lead them to life. In that moment, let the stuff burn because it doesn’t matter. You and I would cherish (hold close) what truly matters. You and I will never value our spouses enough to run with them through fire until we first love them deeply with the love of Christ and see them how Jesus sees them. In fact, we will choose something “more valuable” when fire comes if we don’t hold them close to our hearts. We will let our marriages die in the flames of worse, poorer, and sickness if we don’t practice holding our spouses close and risking life and limb to cherish them with the love of Jesus. “Until death do us part” doesn’t mean “until one of us kills the marriage”. Everyone dreams of the golden wedding anniversary and a life-long marriage, but we must realize that “until death do us part” only happens remembering and cherishing your spouse and covenant to them and the Lord one day at a time.
A phrase in the traditional wedding vows to keep at the forefront is “from this day forward”. Forward. You can’t move forward if you are stuck. That means your marriage will die if you do not choose to move onward through the flames of difficulty, unforgiveness, hurt, and disappointment towards the life in Christ that’s waiting ahead. Make up your mind…settle it now! From this day forward…not looking back, not holding grudges, not letting anything separate you… you choose to love and cherish your spouse till one of you takes your final breath.