I Still Do: The Healing Power of Marriage Vows

I kind of cringe when I watch my wedding video. The 36-year-old recording shows its age with the grainy picture and muffled audio, but the part that makes me uneasy is when my husband and I say our vows. We were two young souls pledging our love and ourselves to one another for life NO MATTER WHAT.  

The author, Julie Cole, with her husband, David, at their wedding.

At the time I repeated my vows, I meant them as much as I knew how, but I was so idealistic. My husband’s sober expression reveals that he felt some of the weight of the promises he was making. 

Today as I watch the video with the knowledge of all the good and bad my husband and I have experienced in life up to this point, I don’t feel as if I resemble that starry-eyed bride standing at the altar. Nonetheless it’s largely because of the vows I made that day that I’ve become who I am today.

Vows are powerful. They are willful statements made from the heart that can impact a life for good or bad. 

Broken marriage vows leave behind woundedness and destruction. But marriage vows that are kept have the power to heal as well as increase our intimacy with God and our spouse. 

Here are some healing qualities of living out marriage vows:

  1.  Marriage vows are made in public. Whether you were married in a fancy cathedral or in a Las Vegas wedding chapel, someone witnessed the vows you made to your spouse. My husband and I had several hundred friends and family witness our vows. This openness invited those present to hold us accountable and added the power of their agreement to what we promised to one another. We moved forward in life knowing people were watching us and watching out for us.
  2.  Marriage vows challenge lies. I was mostly a “good girl” growing up. I hated the thought of hurting anyone or being a bother. Over time a lie that grew within me was the belief that people mainly cared for me because of what I could do for them. My husband is the one person on earth who has seen me at my absolute worst. According to my inner lies about my value, there is no reason he should love me. But he didn’t reject me. He has consistently tried his best to actively love me, and in doing so has helped me understand God’s grace more personally. 
  3. Marriage vows are impossible to keep in our own strength. Marriage is a covenant. It means I pledge to uphold my vows whether my spouse does or not. That kind of love doesn’t come naturally. I must have God’s help to do it. There are times when it feels easy to be married because of the ways it benefits my life, but there are times when it’s more of a challenge to consider the needs and wants of my spouse, especially when they differ from mine. My temptation is to find a comfortable rut and just coast. Things may feel fine on the surface, but nothing is really growing. Covenant stays plugged in and present. My marriage vows serve as a reminder to shed complacency and challenge me to lean in to God for help in actively loving my husband. 
  4. Marriage vows, when kept, are a testimony of Christ. Scripture says this is a mystery, but when a man and woman come together as one, it is a picture of Christ’s love for His Bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:31-32). Genesis 1:27 says God created humankind in His own image –male and female. As imperfect and bumbling as our efforts may be, when a husband and wife seek to love and respect one another, God blesses them and allows the world to see a picture of Christ’s redemptive love. It’s a picture the enemy so forcefully attempts to destroy but one the world so desperately needs to see. 

Although I may cringe at my naivete when I first said my vows, I’m thankful for the promises I made that day, and 36 years later my heart still says, “I do.”

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