I remember when DH (yeay I get to use that) and I started planning the wedding, he asked me to write him a list of things to do.
1) Write our own vows or not?
2) Memorize our vows or not?
The answer we came up with for both was "no".
Trust me, it was a shocker when while at the Rehearsal, my Uncle made a rather shocking revelation to us.
"Do you have your vows memorized?"
"No" in unison with confused looks at eachother.
"Well, why not?"
"Uhhh..." How do you respond to that???
Apparently, my Uncle now requires those he marries to memorize their vows. Apparently, too many young men were marrying HIM when stating their vows...looking deep into his eyes (instead of those of the bride's) while repeating after him.
At least that's what he claims. I suspect another reason.
After another uncle's 5th divorce (I may be exaggerating that number), my uncle refused to perform anymore wedding ceremonies for family members because they all ended in divorce. Then he married his son - they've been married happily for 7 years (and expecting a baby this month!) I guess that gave him some more confidence and he performed the ceremony for my sister.
I guess the announcement to my mother about getting married and being pregnant were a real shocker. And I know it wasn't what she had planned for me, but I think that in many ways, planning my wedding and the now planning of the arrival of her grandson is kinda distracting her from what's going on with my sister's marriage - as my sister moved out shortly after I announced my engagement. And so, my Uncle required us to memorize our vows.
I don't know who has felt the keenness of the impending divorce more - my mother or myself. I'm sure my mom is wondering where she went wrong. Though posts like my "Discipline of Love" helped to keep her confident in her parenting abilities. I can not begin to explain the misgivings and torturous undertaking it is to memorize binding vows in a hotel room with someone you grew up with carrying on a licentious texting conversation with a man who you know is not her husband. And yet, the full purport of what was going on in those vows didn't fully hit me until 6:30 the morning of my wedding.
It took me 1.5 hours to memorize those words perfectly...well, nearly perfectly. I kept stumbling over "Til death do you part" because the Episcopal BCP reads "Until we are parted by death". What you always here vs what your supposed to say, when it differs even a tiny bit, can be SO hard to overcome. I remembered "part" had the past participle...so I'd get to "til death" and then realize I said it wrong cuz that doesn't go well with "parted".
Anyway, it was easy. And at 6:30 in the morning (after 4 hours of sleep), the ease at which I memorized those words completely devastated me. How easy it was to memorize 3 sentences. How easy it must've been for countless couples to repeat those words after a priest, line by line. Does the ease at which you repeat those lines translate into the ease of which you can break them? Does the ease with which I memorized them convey some sense of incongruity with what those words actually mean?
Tears. We'll blame the lack of sleep and the off-kilter hormones. But I won't regret them. In those early morning hours, it became more and more clear to me that those vows are going to have to be worked on to have the kind of strength that they were meant to have.
And I cried in the shower. I poured out all my grief for my sister. I poured out my heart in pre-nuptial vows to God, my son, my parents, my uncle...my fiance - I know what I am saying. I know how important these vows are.
I called my mother later that morning and told her I wanted her to give my post on the "Discipline of Love" to my uncle for him to read...I wanted him to know how seriously I was taking it - in spite of the giggling and goofing off during the rehearsal. She told me that he already knew or he wouldn't agree to do the marriage. I told her how easy it was to memorize the vows and how trepidatious I was over that. She reassured me. She said the strangest thing to me then. Something my uncle echoed in his homily. And it wasn't that it was a new concept to me, its just that it held new purpose. It echoed in my heart like a well known song long forgotten. When you say those vows and God is truly in it, there is a transformation by the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is truly present, the words you say are more than words and there is something miraculous occuring - something different...that gives those vows strength.
My uncle said in the homily that we are witnessing today the union of two. And with the blessing of the Holy Spirit, Christ is present...and in the midst of those two are three - in a blessed union of three (this is my own personal revelation here)...the trinity...
What he said evoked snickers from my bridesmaids as my sister said "or four", but I remembered a quote from a young 18 year-old girl at a camp in Alabama. She was learning to deal with being single, having never dated. And during her devotions, I guess she came across this revelation...because she told us her little ditty she made up during the devotion...she called it her "Carlyism" and I had it tucked in the pages of my Bible for the last 7 years...
"First, you must know who's one before becoming two because then you'll be three without knowing who's one."
At first, I thought she meant to know who YOU are. But during my Uncle's homily, it occured to me..."you must know who's one" should be "you must know who's One". You must have a relationship with God prior to the marriage for the binding to be complete. You must know HIM before there's the union of two blessed by Him.
The next day, I showed up at my grandmother's birthday party with my new husband. My Aunt asked me "Do you feel any different, Mrs. M?" How do you answer that when the answer is so elaborate?
Yes, I do feel different. Because with the repetition of those vows, something happened to me up at that altar. My heart has never more fully belonged to one person in my life. Even the moments before those vows, my affection for my husband wasn't nearly so profound. This is something different.
This has God written all over it.
This is the Holy Spirit turning words as weak as thread into a vow as binding as eternity.