10 days. 17 hours. 59 minutes. 24 seconds.
That’s how much longer I’m keeping my last name. I hope you’ll bear with me here; I’ve had very few things on my mind lately besides aisle runners, hairpieces and plates for the rehearsal dinner. But there’s a consistent theme in all this wedding planning that I think is worth sharing.
Marriage is like baptism. It is a commitment you’ve already made in your mind and in your heart long before you take the vows or get dunked/sprinkled/dipped. Committing your life to someone, whether it’s Christ or another person, is a serious commitment made before God and it requires time, energy, and plenty of prayer to consider the costs and benefits. I was baptized on Palm Sunday 2014 and I’m getting married next weekend; if I’ve learned anything in these two experiences, it is that the actual marriage ceremony and baptismal celebration are both just public statements of a promise I already made to the other party.
And in my mind, the publicity makes all the difference. Now, I’m not saying you have to invite the whole world to your wedding or your baptism. I’m only inviting 56 people to my wedding and while I was in Israel, I attended a baptism where only two other people were present. What I mean by public is that people should know about it. People should hear you talking about it and how it’s affecting and changing your life. Your family and close friends in particular should get tired of hearing the story over and over again about how this other person changed your whole world. There should be a marked change or growth in your character and behavior towards others, especially the recipient of your promise. Not an earth-shattering attitude adjustment and schedule change, but if you are truly committed to a life-long relationship with ANYONE, it WILL be visible.
The other significant part of these promises being public is that you are less likely to change your mind and (BONUS) you have help. When you get married, you have two people working towards a successful marriage (hopefully) and when we are baptized, most ceremonies include a promise on the part of the congregation to pray for and build up the new believer in their your journey towards perfect union with Christ. In both cases, you make a promise and you gain a team and support system. You also gain a team that will hold you accountable. Let’s be honest:, if you make a promise in your head or in your heart, both of those are liable to change. We will all go through tragedy in our lives. If you haven’t yet, it will find you eventually. Your living situations, financial stability, and general mental and emotional health all change and every one of these things can affect how you feel about that person or supernatural being you promised to be with forever. Hence the team to encourage you, work with you, and hold you accountable to your promise.
Unfortunately, especially in marriage, there is also the possibility that the person you made the promise to will change as well. I have not experienced a ‘changed’ husband after a wedding – I’m sure I will within the first year of my marriage. But what I have experienced is a very sincere promise made with high expectations that was followed by real fear and disappointment. When I promised to stay pure until marriage, I made a promise to God, my dad, and my future husband. Believe me, I built up that third party in my mind until he was absolutely perfect. After all, God was perfect and in my mind, so was my daddy, so why shouldn’t my future husband also be perfect? But I was very, very wrong. When I made that promise, I made it to a hypothetical person who turned out to be very flawed. He’s still the most wonderful man I’ve ever known and every bit the man I want to spend my life with, but he is not the superhero my 13 year old self assumed I would marry. And I get the feeling that most people enter both marriage and baptismal covenants believing that the person they are promising to be with forever will always be the perfect person they seem to be during the honeymoon.
But people change. And while God doesn’t, life changes us and by extension, changes our perception of Him. If we are who we say we are (that is, followers of a sovereign and merciful God), we will find ourselves uncertain of how we will ever keep the promises we made. The beautiful, glorious reality is that we cannot keep these promises on our own. When sin entered the world, we became completely, totally unable to keep our promises. Thank God for Jesus, right? You cannot commit your life to someone without God’s help and you cannot commit your life to God without God’s help either. Both require outside help; both require supernatural gifts to survive.