The Marriage Vow

by Melanie | September 16th, 2011

In an age when the divorce rate among Christians differs in no respect from that of unbelievers, to the shame of the church, we seem to have forgotten what a vow is.  A few years ago, I had the privilege of seeing what it means to an older generation to promise “For better or for worse…”

The story of the marriage of my grandparents is not a happily-ever-after one. My grandfather was an extremely difficult man to live with in his youth – a wild and angry man, a drinker. Then after he repented and settled down, my grandmother suffered repeated cancers and back surgeries. They did not abandon each other through these challenges, though. They did their duty, paid their vows – for themselves, for the Lord, and for us. They have lost almost all of their many siblings to death, helped a daughter through becoming a young widow, and loved and shepherded us all through heartbreaks, health breakdowns and job losses. Now in their eighties, my grandfather has Alzheimers’ and his health has declined to the point that he needs constant help.

Nana kept him at home as long as she could, but she was unable to pick him up when he kept falling down. Now he’s at a nursing home going through rehab. And yet the wife of his youth has not abandoned him in his old age. She is there every day – to feed him, to take him to the bathroom so he doesn’t need to lose his dignity, to bring him treats and happiness. What a lovely sight, to see her tender devotion to a man who no one would have once faulted her for running from. To see his once strong arms reach in trust and need to his wife, “Are you coming back soon?” To see her save him a piece of cake, “I’ll take this to Ray later. He always loved red velvet cake.” To see him cared for and clean and well-fed when so many were so lonely.

When I told Nana what a blessing this was for me, she told me how he had taken her from doctor to doctor and hospital to hospital when she had cancer, how he’d cared for her when she couldn’t. I thought of Ecclesiastes:

Two are better than one,

Because they have a good reward for their labor.

For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.

But woe to him who is alone when he falls,

For he has no one to help him up.

Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;

But how can one be warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.

And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

That’s what Christian marriage is supposed to be. We are called to be a living picture of the eternal love between Christ and the church. Does it seem impossible to you? Can you love and sacrifice through all the hurt and hard times of this fallen world? I would recommend you see that your marriage is of three strands: the two of you and He is who is able to make us able to keep our vows.

Update: Since I first published this essay on another blog of ours in 2006, my grandfather has gone home to be with his Savior. Hal and the boys gloriously sang, “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder” at his funeral. He so loved to hear us sing! Even after Alzheimers had taken all his memory, when we would begin to sing, his voice would join in, the words flowing directly from the heart. My grandmother misses him terribly, but one day we will all be reunited and her faithfulness will be rewarded.

Further Update: This morning my grandparents were reunited in heaven. Summer 2014

Melanie Winter Full

Melanie

For more on building a marriage that lasts, check out our new book, My Beloved and My Friend: How To Be Married To Your Best Friend Without Changing Spouses. Click here.

  • Nancy Wigmore

    How precious Melanie!  Thanks for  sharing this story!  What a blessing!

  • Thebacks

    Ok, Melaine…..now this one made me cry…….what a precious story!  Thank you.

  • Marsha Garrett

    How inspiring! It is a blessing that you were able to see things in that light and recognize the blessings in front of you.

  • Deanna Rabe

    This is a beautiful post! Thank you.

    Especially in light of Pat Robertson’s recent thoughts about Alzheimers and marriage.  This was a true Christian marriage.  I thank God for their example to us all.

    Deanna

  • http://www.mesharing.com William

    Thanks for the beautiful post…you mind if I repost this to my site? http://www.mesharing.com

    I will put link back to you and note as the original poster

    • http://twitter.com/raisingrealmen Raising Real Men

      Sure, William, as long as you attribute it to Melanie Young and link back to our site here, we’d be glad for you to! Thanks for asking!

      • http://www.mesharing.com William

        Thanks :)

      • William

        Hi, I already post it on my site http://www.mesharing.com/2011/09/marriage-vow-testimony-by-melanie/

  • Melissa Telling

    As a young teenage, I had the privledge of observing a similar relationship. I had a job delivering newspapers to our local nursing home/assisted living/retiree apartment complex. One of the patients at the nursing home was a stroke victim named Arty. He couldn’t speak, but he was very affectionate and would reach out for my hand and pull it to his face for a “hug” each time I passed. Every morning, his wife would take her Bible and make her way up to the nursing home from her apartment and would take her place beside him. She would spend the entire day talking to him, reading to him, praying with him and holding his hand. It was an amazing display of devotion and tenderness that I have never forgotten. I’m not sure that I ever even knew her name, (When I stopped to say hello, her focus was always on Arty. She spoke to me of him, and interpreted his “words” for me.) but I’ve never met a woman I respected more and I’ve never seen more love between a man and his wife than I saw between those two.

  • belaglik

    I know this is an old post, but I just came across it. I just wanted to point out that recent research, from a liberal university no less, shows what many of us have probably suspected, that the divorce rate in the church is actually much lower than in the world and the church has been subjected to needless shame because of misinformation. I believe the old statistics (remember what Mark Twain said about those!) came from people who got married in a church, but weren’t committed Christians, or those who check “Christian” on a form, but their lives do not reflect that. Obviously that was not the case with your grandparents. What a great legacy of faith! I am glad I also had good Christian grandparents on one side to be examples for me to follow. My other grandparents stayed together until the end, but I think it was more a matter of just toughing it out.

    Not that we don’t all need to put some effort into it, though! :)

    http://www.charismanews.com/us/44398-church-divorce-rate-way-lower-than-anyone-thought

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