Saturday, May 28, 2011

Vows

Charly’s and my 17th wedding anniversary is tomorrow! One Saturday morning last December, while Charly, CJ, and Joshua were out playing basketball, Jordan helped me work on a Christmas present. She was in charge of the remote control, pausing and rewinding our wedding video, while I copied down the words of my wedding vows. I then rewrote them in calligraphy and framed them for Charly’s desk.

Charly, I love you.
I commit myself to you as your wife.
I continually thank God our Father for bringing us together in His perfect timing.
I am confident that our relationship started with
and will continue to be lived out through the lordship of Christ.
I trust you to care for me as my husband.
 I trust you to provide godly leadership in our Christian home.
I will go anywhere with you, even to the most remote village in China,
as we allow the Lord to be the guide of our lives and the head of our home.
I promise to love you consistently and to always give you unconditional love and support.
I will always strive to put your interests above my own, through the example of Christ.
I will also strive to honor you and to build you up with my words and my actions.
Charly, it is my desire that today and for the rest of our lives
 we will be truly one as God intended.
And as one we will continue to seek His will for our lives together.

I had wanted to reread my vows as I couldn’t remember exactly what I had committed myself to. And I wanted to recommit those vows to Charly, as we begin a new chapter of our lives. I had been thinking about the part in my vows where I promised to go anywhere with Charly, “even to the most remote village in China.” That had been our thinking when we got married…we would spend a few years in Tianjin for me to get a foundation in the Chinese language (Charly had already done two years of language study in Tianjin before we got married) and then we would move west to live in a village among the ethnic minorities in Gansu province. Little did we know then that our family would end up spending 15 years in Tianjin!

Our God is a faithful God. Four years ago, He rekindled the passion for this area in Charly’s heart and we took our first family trip here. A year and a half ago, He opened the door for Charly to apply for a government scholarship at Lanzhou University. And three months ago, we moved our family to Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, for Charly to start his studies. We’re not in a remote village yet, but we plan to move next year into a rural village three hours from here, for Charly to begin his PhD field research in the area of minority education.

(When we were in Tianjin a few weeks ago, we overheard our kids answering friends’ questions about our new home in Lanzhou. We laughed to hear them say that Lanzhou was a small town of only 2-3 million people! In their minds, compared to Tianjin with 11 million people, it seems smaller. We see this move to Lanzhou (a smaller big city) as a stepping stone for us to move into a more remote part of this province.)

To be honest, my heart cringed as I listened to myself pledging these words on our wedding video: “I promise to love you consistently and to always give you unconditional love and support.” I have definitely fallen short in this area! Why didn’t I preface that statement with “I will strive to” or “it is my desire to”? But instead, I boldly vowed “I promise to…and to always give.” I was young and naïve back then. And even though I have not fulfilled my vows these past 17 years as I wish I could say that I have, Charly has given me much grace. And God has filled in where I have lacked.

We have been reading in Hebrews recently and have been struck with the differences in the old and new covenants. Because it is impossible for us to earn salvation by our obedience to the law under the old covenant, Jesus paid the price for us, once and for all, and established a new covenant through His perfect sacrifice.

"So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.” (Hebrews 4:16)

My wedding vows have helped me to see my failure to be a consistently and unconditionally loving wife, in light of the new covenant. I have a renewed gratitude that my hope and confidence are not in my own ability or in my own faithfulness, but in Christ who enables me to come boldly to the throne to receive the grace and mercy that I so desperately need. He remains faithful, even when I am not. Especially when I am not. And He continues to help me to strive to fulfill my wedding vows to Charly to this day.

The Lord still is the guide of our lives and the head of our home, and we are continuing to seek His will for our lives together.

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