Thursday, September 4, 2008

Wife Rule #69: Vows Are For Renewing

My hands hug the wheel of our Mustang convertible while my eyes dart back and forth, taking in details. Many of the tourists on Maui drive this make and model--in fact, I bet nearly all of the Mustang convertibles on the road belong to rental car companies. Most permanent residents probably own sensible hard-topped vehicles. Falling coconuts, you know.

Something else we have in common with many of the other tourists here is our little blue guide book, Maui Revealed. We have found ourselves "out of the traffic" on numerous occasions, somewhere that feels a little more peaceful and remote than the crowded condo beachfronts, and noted that the few other people we encounter out there are consulting the same blue book.

The authors say that many locals are mad at them for making some of Maui's best secrets available to visitors from the mainland. Such feelings are probably justified. No one without some type of inside knowledge would ever find some of these places, which is why I'm hugging the wheel and scanning the roadside while my wife re-reads the directions in the blue book.

"Look for the lava rock wall to appear on the right. There it is. Okay, at the bottom of a deep dip in the road, there's a fish taco stand called Makena Grill." This restaurant appears to consist of a picnic table under a shade tree, a pickup truck, and according to the blue book, excellent food and "snippy service."

About fifty feet further, there is supposed to be a four-foot passageway cut through the wall that allows access to the beach. Ahh, there it is, and here we pull off. There are no other cars in sight, except one belonging to a couple enjoying fish tacos--apparently a honeymooning couple, as she is wearing a big rock and sitting squarely in his lap.

Near solitude. The blue book is about to deliver, again.

We follow the wall to the small break and press through. On the other side is a small but pristine beach, about fifty feet of white sand wedged between chocolate lava rocks. The water is an idyllic aquamarine blue, the wave action provides perfect sound effects, and palm trees cast their shadows over the scurrying inhabitants of tide pools. A few yards out, a sea turtle briefly surfaces.

Ahhh, Maui.

Here on the beach there is just enough sand to support a party of fifty or so, though we only see one other family here today. No wonder this tiny, unmarked "public" beach is often used for making and renewing wedding vows. It's perfectly proportioned and seductively secluded for a fairytale princess story.

So after spending exactly as much time as we wanted exploring the tide pools and getting our feet wet in the waves, my wife and I let the Maui mood overtake us. "Let's renew our vows before we leave," I suggested. "The blue book says it's a nice thing to do here."

"You romantic little devil," my wife coyly grinned back.

Since my wife has already recorded this Magic Moment, I will use her words to recount it to you:

The beach is very small and hard to see the entrance to. It is beautiful though. Apparently a lot of marriages are kissed into being here. Knowing that, we renewed our vows as we left.

"Honey, will you marry me all over again?"

"Yes Dear, forever. Will you keep me too?"

"Yes, I love you."

High five.

High five? Yea, that's the way it went down.

So there you have it. Just like a brand new set of quality tires, I figure our marriage is now good for another ten years or 100,000 miles, at least.

But aside from extending our warranty, what does it really mean to renew our vows?

To be perfectly accurate, the vows we renewed on the beach were our engagement vows, wherein we privately committed to each other to be married, and not our actual public wedding vows. When my wife and I were married, we made vows to a third party with authority to bind us together. In our case, it was a kindly old gentleman in whom both the state and our church had vested authority to join couples together as husband and wife. He asked us questions and we answered him. Vows are made this way in nearly all marriage ceremonies--couples make promises to the one with authority to marry, not to each other directly.

Yet as an authorized representative of our church, this gentleman symbolized much more. Just like the first earthly marriage, performed in the Garden of Eden, our Father in Heaven was present at our wedding. The kindly old man served as a surrogate as my wife and I made our vows directly to God. I like knowing that our Eternal Father was present as we formed our own eternal family.

And the vows we made to Him are eternal vows, promises that extend through the end of our mortal lives and far beyond, into infinite and currently unknown times and circumstances. After only ten years, we have already learned that there is real power in such a long-term perspective on our promises: it puts short-lived problems and pin-pricks in their proper place.

One might think that the eternal nature of our vows would mean they can never be broken, but on the contrary, they require such high standards for our union that my wife and I regularly mess things up. Thankfully, our quest for a perfect marriage is not doomed by temporary failures; there is a regular renewal of these vows built right into our religion.

When we take the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, we renew all the vows we have made to God, including those made at baptism and marriage.

In 1 Corinthians 11:24-28, Paul spoke of what the Savior said when he first gave His disciples the Lord's supper:

And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come....

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

In my church, we believe that a vital part of the self-examination required to partake of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper involves renewing all vows and covenants we have made with our Lord. Thus, I have the opportunity each week in church to review my performance and progress as a husband, and renew my commitment to be the best companion I can be. The promises I made to God the day we wed are made bright weekly, through repentance, remembrance, and recommitment.

Any vow worth making in the first place is worth renewing regularly. We need not wait ten years for an anniversary trip to Maui to do it. We can renew our vows every week in church, as we invoke the Savior's grace and help. Better yet, we can renew our vows every day as we look lovingly into the eyes of the one we love, seeing beyond imperfections and focusing on the long-term view: remembering the beauty and wonder of the person we fell in love with long ago, choosing to appreciate that person's great good in the here and now, and anticipating future joys that need never end.

That's something my wife and I can do today, right now, with or without the blue book.


Rev. Linda said...

What a wonderful article or blog or posting or whatever we call them these days. Blog just doesn't seem to do it.

I am a wedding or marriage vow coach. One of the secrets to a long lasting marriage that I emphatically teach couples is that when they have written their vows they are not done with them. They are to reread them over and over and over until they are firmly fixed in mind, body, and spirit.

The other secret I teach is that wedding vows are about writing down the dream a couple has for their marriage. That forces conversation, introspection, and imagination.

Once that dream is fixed in mind, I like the symbolism of the 'high five'. I'm going to write that into one of my blogs/articles on my web site

I'd like to send people to your beautiful and passionate story if you will give me permission to.

Rev. Linda Bardes, The Wedding Vow Coach
Helping couples write down the dream and then live it.

LuckyMatt said...

I would be honored to be included in your list of people who value vows. You are welcome to refer people to this post. Thanks for your suggestions of writing down dreams and vows, and for the nice compliment!