Commitment is a Good Word I use carefully. It has a weightiness of importance that slows you down in decision making, yet also gives you hope for the future. It isn’t spoken of frivolously, and becomes controversial and destructive when broken. It also has a softer side that promotes dedication, devotion, loyalty, faithfulness and fidelity. A ten-letter word that covers a vast range of life situations:
· An offer to meet for coffee at 9, then a text at 9:05 and our meeting starting at 9:15am
· A work deliverable scheduled for the 12th, but realistically it’s going to be completed until the 20th
· Signing our name to a number of loan documents with the understanding to repay a note, even when the collateral and cash flow are short
· ….and to matters of the heart: when we stand before God, family, friends and the love of our life, and someone pronounces us married. When two become One in a life-long committed relationship
It’s this last one about a committed relationship that I am most hesitant to tackle, yet exactly why I feel prompted to write about it.
I grew up feeling loved and cherished. I embrace the inheritance of being a daughter of God because I unequivocally believe in a loving Heavenly Father, much accredited to my amazing earthly dad, Ted. Just like our Heavenly Father, my dad is encouraging, loving, charming, handsome, generous, a protector, a disciplinary, the list goes on. To this day, I love holding his hand, receiving his hugs, reading his handwriting, hearing his voice …and I wouldn’t say I am a daddy’s girl, because I have a loving relationship with my mom too. This spring my parents are celebrating 50 years of marriage. They are an anomaly in our current society, but not in my heritage: My mom’s parents crossed the 40-year mark and my dad’s parents were married just under 63 years.
The Legacy of Commitment
Maybe it’s from this legacy of committed marriages that causes me a heavy heart upon hearing that my neighbors are ending theirs. I know statistically I shouldn’t be surprised, half of American marriages end in divorce, and second and third marriages are even less likely to survive. When I shared with our kids that the neighbors are divorcing they remarked “but they are so nice”. Yes, even nice people can grow apart. Our kids continue “but they seem so happy”. Yes, even when couples seem happy on the outside, you don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors. “Who will get the cute fluffy dogs?” Heartbreak sets in as our kids begin to understand the reality of separation and divorce.
I desperately want to shake society, have them demand a family legacy like mine to be the story of their own, their children and grandchildren: “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” Exodus 20:5-6
The nice, happy, lovely neighbors are not the first, just the most recent. Over the years, as friends have shared their marital issues, I debunk the cultural norm and encourage their union. I encourage them to pray incessantly. I remind them of their life-long committed relationship. As I become bolder in my Christian faith I point to scripture:
“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh”. (Genesis 2:24). “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate”. (Matthew 19:6 and Mark 10:6-9) …and the most well-known wedding reading (in my opinion) “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud…And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”. (1 Corinthians 13:4-13).
Did you know the creation of marriage occurred PRIOR to sin entering the world (aka before the serpent enemy – see Genesis 2). Meaning marriage was created Perfectly for mankind. WOW. Re-read that. God created man and woman to “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10. As I continued digging, I found the meaning of what we are striving for in the permanence of a lifelong marriage: “God does have a plan for your marriage. He desires to see your love grow and bear fruit. The goal of a covenant marriage is not to merely enjoy each other’s company nor is it to simply endure to the end. The goal of a covenant marriage is to glorify God in your relationship and to exemplify Christ to the world.” Covenant Marriage Movement
Even if you didn’t enter your marriage as a Christian, there is no need for self-help books (View 1 Corinthians 7:12-13 and Corinthians 10). The Bible tells us exactly how to fight when we feel like fleeing: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place”. (Revelation 2:4-5).
“To love is to compassionately and righteously seek the well-being of another. To first love is to passionately and righteously seek the well-being of another”, as described by Dr. Tony Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, Dallas Texas.
I encourage you to fall in love with your spouse again. Remember the excitement to see him each night, to talk for hours on the phone, to dream together? Remember the fights, the making up and hopefully the repenting and forgiving in between? Remember how enamored and giddy you were? Go back to holding hands again, pick up trinkets that remind you of him, have candlelight dinners at home, even cook side by side. Because if we don’t restore the passion, Jesus directly points out that our lampshade will be removed, meaning our light could be extinguished from its purpose of bringing God’s Kingdom to earth. Dr. Tony Evans continues, “If we are not fulfilling the reason why God instituted the institution of marriage in the first place (mirroring God’s purpose and advancing his causes) that opens the door for the enemy, like he did with the first marriage, to come in, create division, separate us from God and create “civilizational” chaos, conflict and disintegration. When we know that the destruction of our marriages is a spiritual issue and not merely a relational issue, they we will seek to address it spiritually and not just relationally”. Dr. Tony Evans Focus On The Family
This is why commitment is so weighty. It’s not just words of a promise. It’s the posture of placing the Lord as the King of our Heart and our spouse as the Love of our Life:
· The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him (Psalm 28:7)
· May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:14)
· Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind (Psalm 26:2)
I don’t have the heartache experience of divorce to share personally, and maybe that is exactly why I am qualified to say…STAY COMMITTED!
Is it easy? No
Can the Bible equip us to fight for our relationships? Yes
Will we have trials and be tested? Yes… (James 1:2-4) but the lifelong love of a covenant marriage is worth it!
“Heavenly Father, I pray you will open communication between couples, that you will remind us of our first dates and infatuations with each other, I pray you will protect us from temptations of greener pastures and encourage us to hold our commitments. I pray you will allow us to keep hope, commit to deeper relationships with you, and that you allow our legacy to include a long, God filled marriage”.