I recently officiated my brother-in-law and (now) sister-in-law’s wedding, and below is an adapted version of what I wrote for the ceremony. Here, it’s a little more fitting for a “reader”. The bride and groom had picked Ruth 1:16, a common and beautiful verse for weddings that I think true displays the different types of love and the role of God and community in our marriages.
Love makes us do crazy things.
And the passage in the book of Ruth 1:16 reminds us of that. Ruth’s life was hit with the unexpected and because of love and commitment, when she faced the unexpected she looked at it straight in the eye and said:
“Where you go, I will go,
Where you stay I will stay,”
When we get engaged, this is the type of love that we have. We have love that causes us to stay up all talking, take last minute vacations, spend lots of money on large gestures of romance, and scream and yell and jump into one another’s arms and say “YES”. When we get engaged, this is truly the only type of love we are thinking of.
The crazy adventure love steps out in bravery, choose adventure and embrace the unknown. But watch out, love like this makes you do crazy things. It makes you dive head first into adventure, grasp tightly on to one another and just go for it.
“Where you go, I will go,
Where you stay I will stay.”
Going on a new path, stepping out in bravery and embracing courage are hard things in their own right, but the real hard stuff is the unexpected. The stuff you aren’t planning for on your adventure. The things that you will have no idea that you will face, that you can’t imagine, but then you get there, and you are so happy that you don’t have to face these things alone.
I confessed to my husband this weekend that weddings make me so anxious. I have this moment, when everyone is quiet before the bride comes down the isle that I want to stop the ceremony, find the bride and the groom and ask them: “HAVE YOU THOUGHT THIS THROUGH?!” Because in reality, there is NOT ONE scenario that we have gone through in our marriage that has been tough, hard, and sometimes impossible, that I expected. Not one.
When we were dating and engaged I never, ever, asked myself the following questions:
“What is this person like when it’s time to pack up a house and move? Do they shove everything in a box, or are they a list person? Do they tolerate people who would rather burn everything than pack a box?”
“How does this person squeeze their toothpaste? Surely they aren’t a bottom to top roller.”
“How will this person react if they lose a job, or I do?”
“Will this be a person that can stand by me when I deliver a stillborn child?”
“Will this person ever face depression, anxiety or something like it, and how will he be if I do?”
But as time goes one, you learn a new type of love. A love that isn’t glamours or crazy or adventurous, but a love that makes it possible to do hard things.
It is love that is the first to say sorry.
It is love that chooses what is right over what is popular
It is love that is patient
It is love that is humble
It is love that forgives quickly
It is love that continues to abide no matter what
And it is love that choses sacrifice.
Ruth was hit with the unexpected and not only did she embrace the parts that were adventurous and new, she also leaned into the hard things by asserting the two things that she knew she would need to make it through:
“Your people will be my people,
Your God will be my God.”
The two things that will get your through the hard stuff in your marriage, as long as you lean in, ask for help, and seek wisdom, are God and community. Loving God and your community, and letting God and your community love you make it possible to do hard things.
God is the author of love and is through his death on the cross that we know what love even looks like. He is also the author of marriage and He designed it purposefully and distinctly to be rooted in Him. That’s your starting point. God is all the love, the joy, goodness and faithfulness in the world and He has already overcome all the hard things you will ever face.
He will be your source of strength, your security, faithfulness and joy. He will never leave you or forsake you.
I hear many couples discuss how they don’t love each other anymore and that the person they are with 5 or 10 years down the road isn’t who they married. I think of who I was at age 23 when I got married and Im singing Hallelujah that I am not the same person. We all grow and change a million times throughout the day. Our bodies, our minds, it all changes. I do not under any circumstances look the way I did when I was 23, and I absolutely don’t think the same.
The day of your wedding is the last day that you will be that person. Marriage in and of itself changes you, and that is a good thing. Good marriages will change you, great marriages will challenges you and the best marriages will give you space to be confident, and brave and bold. These marriages will form you out of the person you once were and into a person that looks more and more like Christ. And that takes a ton of courage, vulnerability, confession, digging in and digging up.
This is a painful process, a square peg round hole type of thing, but what keeps a marriage together through this is a whole lot of grace, a willingness to keep up with someone as they grow and change by asking questions and seeking answers and being ok with not having them, and by being a person who says “I Do” again and again and again.
The second thing that Ruth knew she would need was community. Her friends and family. Its the people in your life who will pray for you, tell you when you’re talking nonsense, and help you make decisions.
Take a moment, and picture your community in your head. Can you see them? Picture the faces of your friends and family, the ones that you love, the ones that you can’t live without, and those that you are the first to call. These are your people. They are your tribe. They love you, they support you, and they are forever on your side. They will fight for your marriage and your joy and your happiness.
Sometimes, our marriages need a little help. Well, a lot of the time. Honestly, Marriage is so hard. It is delightful and it is wonderful, but it takes hard work. Perhaps you are going through a hard season, or you feel like you’ve just been missing the mark. Maybe, it’s your anniversary and you know that you need more love and support. Whatever the reason, asking for help from your people is sometimes the best thing you can do for your marriage.
I don’t know the journey you two are on, but you do. Asking specifically for prayer and support will give your community opportunities to be purposeful in their words and prayers, and also keep you both on track in the areas of your life you want to focus on. Get them all together, make them dinner and pour them wine. Be vulnerable as to where you are at and ask them to come alongside you and support you. Marriage takes a village. It takes you and your spouse exchanging vows, and it takes your community vowing commitment and loyalty and love and support to you, too.
Perhaps a good starting place is printing the following statements out (or something that speaks better to you and your marriage) and have them say these things aloud to you and over you in prayer.
We promise to stand by you, no matter what, looking after your best interests in all that you encounter.
We promise to pray for you and to speak wisdom in your lives when you need it.
We promise that you will never be alone; that you will never have to face hard things in life by yourself.
We promise to encourage you, love you, and cheer you on, no matter what you face.
We promise that we will hold you up, reminding you of your commitment to one another through every season.
Community is designed to be a support system, but it is also designed to be the feet and hands of Jesus. Community, at its best, is a mirror of how God feels about us, what He is doing on our behalf and how much He loves us.
Marriages tell a story of God and how much He loves His Church. Our continual decision to commit to one another tells the story of a God who sticks by His people and who is in their corner. Saying “I do” is not something we do once. It is a choice that we make every day, and on some days, multiple times a day. So imagine what it’s like when a group of people rally around others and their marriages and they commit to doing this thing together? What if we planted ourselves and we ruthlessly went after community and God and one another instead of salaries, schedules and chaos?
It would look like a people that follow one another down any road, holding hands and stumbling around a bit. What would it be like if we all kept one another close to the vows we made to our spouses and were the hands and feet of Jesus when things got hard and weary? In the moment, it still may look messy and broken, but I think that when we look back, forty years down the road we will see a people that fought hard for marriage. A people that valued commitment and community over fleeting feelings and temporal happiness.
It would look like a village where their people would be close and their God, closer.