Our wedding day, 16 years ago, was beautiful. It truly is one of my favorite memories. I clearly remember the moment just before the doors to the sanctuary opened so that I could begin my walk down the aisle. My dad looked down at me and said, "I love you, babe," in one of the sweetest, most sincere ways that caused tears to spring to my eyes. As the doors opened I could see my husband-to-be waiting for me. The next clear memory is of us holding hands repeating our vows. We were nervous and our voices shook. I think we both cried. It was the most exciting moment of our lives.
I had heard those vows so many times before then, and have heard them so many times since then. I had heard them on soap operas, movies, and at family weddings. I had read the lines in romance novels (it was a phase I went through. Please don't judge me.). I had fantasized over my wedding and imagined us standing at the altar before God and our family and friends. However, the truth and the depth of the words was hidden from my heart. We went with the traditional, 'to have and to hold, to love and to cherish,' vows but I didn't understand how far the words that we were exchanging would eventually carry us. I can't help but wonder if it was better to be naiive, because the real vows, the life I was really committing to, would have scared my candy cane print pantyhose right off of my legs.
The real vows would have gone something like this:
I, Kara, take you Lee, to have and to hold when the world has beaten you down, after our families have driven us crazy, and when we feel that we can't stand one another.
From this day forward, no matter how long that seems, and no matter what obstacles seem to be in our way.
For better, and here's hoping that better is what we'll get.
For worse, meaning the worst we can offer up as humans. Saying things we never believed we could say and having thoughts we never believed we would have.
For richer, although, at times, we may not recognize our abundant blessings.
For poorer, poorer bank accounts - which are not nearly as romantic as the novels make it seem; for poorer spirits, which are terrible to suffer and will sneak up on both of us at different times, sometimes at the same time, and threaten to steal our joy.
In sickness and in health means that you'll hold my hand, put a cold cloth on my neck, and stroke my hair so that I can sleep. It means that you'll calm me when I'm sure that death is imminent and I've worked myself into believing my self-diagnosis of a deadly disease. In return I'll nurse you after surgeries, through man-colds (menfolk, don't pretend you don't know what I mean), and when you just don't feel like getting out of bed.
To love and to cherish even when you feel unlovable. I hope and pray that you can do the same for me on the days or for the weeks or months that I feel unlovable. I hope you'll love me on the days when I am unloving toward you. I pray that I'll cherish you on the days when you act unloving toward me.
For now unto to death do us part and this part can't be taken lightly. We have to mean this today and everyday, because even though we can't imagine it at this moment, there may be days that we don't feel like putting in the effort that it will take to keep our relationship healthy.
While I couldn't know exactly what married life was going to offer, I did know that I was agreeing to live my life with Lee whatever should come. In truth, there have been times when I thought living in a cabin alone, forever, was the way to go. God always reminded me of my vows in those weaker moments. Given another 16 years I can't imagine what I will be able to add to our original vows. I can say that I'm excited to find out, though. It's not that we have it all figured out - far from that, in fact, - it is that I've found that the refining process, while painful, is totally worth it. I am excited because we have learned that with Christ at our center we can do this hard, wonderful thing called marriage.
I think that our wedding vows, our real wedding vows, are being lived out everyday in ways that I never knew possible.