“Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no.
Anything else comes from the evil one.”
My paternal grandparents got married at 9:00 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, the 18th of September, 1928. After the ceremony, friends stopped at the bride’s family home to wish the newlyweds well and celebrate in whatever customary way that Polish immigrants celebrated at 10:30 a.m. on a rural Michigan farm. Everything was simple, including the fact that they went on to live the next half century according to the promises they made to each other that morning. Grandma and Grandpa took their words seriously. They never wavered. They loved each other till the end and this love was built upon the most simple and basic principle: Tell the Truth.
Ninety years later, it is a bitter irony that our culture has deteriorated to the point that many of us routinely attend lavish and extravagant weddings for people who don’t really mean what they are saying.
It is commonplace today to hear that so-and-so decided to cheat on their spouse or get a divorce because they felt “unhappy” or “lonely” or “unfulfilled.” Losing that “spark” or “growing apart” are now pretty much accepted as legitimate moral grounds for breaking a solemn vow.
Isn’t the whole reason we take vows is because everyone knows that tough times arise in marriage?
The traditional vows say something like “for better or for worse, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” The very existence of these vows anticipate the fact that difficult challenges are always going to arise in a normal marriage. That’s exactly why you take those vows! The American culture of casual divorces without any moral accountability is a logical head scratcher for sure. It makes no sense. It’s bad for spouses. Bad for children. Bad for families and friends. Bad for society as a whole. The modern breakdown of the family has led to unspeakable suffering for millions. Once the family is shattered, individual human beings get shattered. The collateral damage of divorce is far reaching. The wounds may persist for a lifetime. This culture of casual infidelity that we Americans have created may be one of the most significant factors that has led us into our current turmoil. And all this badness is built upon one simple thing: people telling lies.
A stable society is built upon stable families.
What could be more destructive than tearing apart a family, walking away from the one person you have solemnly promised to love and support forever? What could be more corrupt than abandoning the only person you have promised never to abandon?
I am so grateful that I married a woman who had the integrity to tell the truth when we stood before the altar. The past 20+ years hasn’t exactly been easy for her. Despite all my illnesses, conflicting ideas about how to spend our time and money, differences in tastes and temperament, streaks of incredible bad luck, periods of intense pressure and stress, and the fact that we think so differently (ie. we still are unable to finish each other’s sentences), she is still with me, her commitment strong and trustworthy. Sometimes I fear that people might get the wrong impression of our lives because we keep our dirty laundry off of social media. But Margy knows. She sees all my warts and failings. I hurt her sometimes. I am inadequate. I do not “complete her.”
Mercifully she loves me anyway. That’s because she has integrity. It’s a beautiful thing to witness. It‘s how my grandparents loved each other too. It’s what marriage is all about.
There are many good and valid reasons to have a big elaborate wedding celebration, especially when it serves to strengthen the bond of community among extended family and friends. I enjoy such weddings. Margy and I had one ourselves. But as far as its role in committing us to each other as husband and wife, a simple and sincere Tuesday morning wedding would have worked just as well. All it takes is two people who are telling the truth when they take a vow.
That can be done on a Tuesday morning.