Lately the kids and I have been watching one of these wedding dress shows. You know the kind: mother is a nightmare, bride is in tears, but in the end the perfect wedding dress magically appears and they all skip out of the salon holding hands. At the end of each show, they choose one bride and show a small clip of her wedding. Usually we see the bride and groom exchanging some vows, and then it cuts to them dancing the night away in their expertly chosen clothes.
But one thing always surprises me when the two inevitably write their own vows and read them aloud, shaky hands holding tiny folded papers with words scribbled on both sides. I’m always shocked by how unrealistic the vows are. They say things like, “I’ll make you happy every day for the rest of my life.” They promise not to ever make each other cry. Very few are asked simple questions about loving one another. There are no basic “I do” responses. Everyone seems to feel the need to be extra specific. They say things that I’m sure they believe are true in that moment, but reality is not far behind those sweet few minutes at the altar. Chances are good that within the next few days someone is not going to be making someone else happy. That’s completely normal, of course. Our happiness can’t be a weight that we slug onto our spouse’s shoulders. Happiness, or maybe more appropriately, joy, is a gift of God and a fruit of the Spirit, and isn’t our spouse’s responsibility or burden.
While watching these couples, I thought back to my own wedding day. Don’t we all have so much hope about what we will be as a husband or a wife? Don’t we intend to be selfless, to be good and loving and kind? Don’t we expect that we two will be different, a couple that sets the example for how to love each other the way God intended?
But we, too, learn before we even leave the reception hall that we are not a perfect couple. So I thought I would, twenty-four and one-half years into this marriage, write what I probably should have said that day at the altar, if I knew then what I know now.
Chad, I promise that I will love you imperfectly. This imperfect love will carry marks of my selfishness, and the way I tend to think of myself when I ought to be thinking of you. I promise that I will hurt you. I will say things too quickly that shouldn’t be said at all. I will discourage you. I will even squash your dreams at times in favor of my own plans and with deference to my own fears. I promise you that my good intentions will often be overrun by my frustrations and anxieties and busyness.
I promise you that I will be rude at times. I will snap at you and use biting sarcasm. I will criticize things about you that I am blind to in myself. Woefully, sometimes I will talk to you like you are one of our children. I will act self-righteous on some days, and I will seem emotionally unstable on other days, and on all days I will sin and for years of our life together I will struggle with some of the very same sins over and over again.
But there is hope. In the middle of all of this wrong-doing and wrong thinking and wrong acting, you will love me. You will have patience and will show kindness when I don’t deserve it and you won’t give up on me. I promise you that in the middle of all of my imperfection and stubbornness and miserable sin, I will recognize the grace of God in you, my husband and my brother in Christ. I promise you that you will help me know the love of Christ more through your love for me.
Even more, when we have days and months or even years of being out of tune with each other, God’s goodness will cover the whole mess. He will send us reminders that He designed us to become one, inseparable, throughout a surprising, thrilling, heart-rending, imperfectly God-honoring life together. And someday when we get to Heaven, perfected at last, won’t we rejoice, knowing that we loved each other, by His grace and mercy, despite the imperfections that would have caused others to turn and run away.
I promise you this: I will not make this life easy on you. But I will remember for all eternity how you loved me anyway. To God be the glory, forever and ever. Oh, and I do.