If you ask a local pastor the phrase he is most likely to hear when counseling a couple struggling in their relationship, my bet is that somewhere in the top three is the statement, “he (she) has changed.”
While that is a common refrain heard in marital counseling, in reality that is not exactly what the person is trying to convey. What that person really means to say is, “he (she) has changed, and that change is for the worse.”
You see, there is a difference, because if there is one thing that is sure to occur following a wedding it is that both persons will change over time. The real issue is whether or not these individuals will change in a way that brings them closer to each other or not.
To me, the best way to ensure that both persons grow in the same way is to include a separate entity in the marriage to which they can both seek to conform their lives. And that separate “person” is God.
I have attended weddings where the pastor calls on God’s blessing on the marriage of the couple. And that’s a good thing. I have done the same. However, I always try to go beyond that and emphasize that I am not only calling on God’s blessing, but His daily involvement!
This Saturday, I will have the pleasure of presiding at the wedding of Meghan Thompson and Tyler Nunn at Bible Lutheran Church. Now there are words that we use which go back to antiquity. You know them well. Tyler will say: “In the Name of God, I, Tyler, take you, Meghan, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.” Those in attendance will hear Tyler and Meghan say those words.
But this is what I will be hearing, that which I see as the foundation for the vows themselves: “I, Tyler, love you, Meghan, and I want to learn to love you unconditionally and sacrificially like Christ loves you and all people. I vow to devote myself to Christ and to you, so that we may both grow in His likeness. Meghan, I need you to help me get to heaven, and I promise to be by your side and help you as you continue to seek God’s face.”
May all married persons pledge the same.
The Rev. Dr. Bob LeFavi, installed member of the Society of Ordained Scientists, is pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church, Springfield.