One of the most powerful ceremonies I have done this summer was not a wedding but a renewal of vows after ten years of marriage. The ceremony was done in a small family setting with a couple, whom I will call John and Mary, their three children and some other close family members. John and Mary were married in a church, so to bring that element forward, their seven year old daughter read the scripture reading that was read in their wedding. It is probably the most common reading done from scripture at weddings and rightly so.
1st Cor 13:4-8A Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
After ten years of marriage and raising three children, this reading becomes a checklist for how well a couple has survived and grown. Ten years later they are beginning to know the price of these words. I believe that these words became the true vows that this couple renewed in this ceremony. While John and Mary did renew their wedding promises to each other, the real vows were more like: I will continue to be patient and kind (or maybe 'I will do better at being patient and kind'). I will not be jealous when she wants to go out after work with her friends and not come home to eat with me and the kids. I will not think I am better than he is, and when I am, I won't be rude about it. I will forgive him when he does something that hurts me. And most of all, we will continue to endure this together because love doesn't fail.
Each of these vows of love takes on new deeper meaning throughout the relationship. This couple had begun to see the price of each of these descriptions and they are beginning to see the rewards of their work. I fully expect that this reading will become new to them repeatedly in their future if they are truly living their vows to each other.
As I have watched couples in many stages of their lives together, at times, these vows become very challenging. After 30 or 40 years, it seems that almost tiring to continue to be patient and kind all the time. These vows of love need to be renewed often. Then those who are lucky enough to live into old age together can look back and see their lives together as a whole. Love becomes the gentle touches, the kind actions, the acknowledgement that maybe we are not perfect but we have endured. I have watched that spark of love return that I imagine was there in the beginning, but now it is not the hopeful look of living a life together, it is the knowledge of I still love you and we have lived our lives together. That belief that you and I can do anything together is real again because, you know what, we have done it all and I still can love you.
photo from www.pixshark.com