Wedding Vows

On Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006, Maxim Kniazkov, writer/contributor to the Yahoo! Web site, reported the following: “It is by no means dead, but for the first time, a new survey has shown that traditional marriage has ceased to be the preferred living arrangement in the majority of U.S. households. The shift, reported by the U.S. Census Bureau in its 2005 American Community Survey, could herald a sea of change in every facet of American life–from family law to national politics and its current emphasis on family values. The findings indicated that marriage did not figure in nearly 55.8 million American family households, or 50.2 percent.”

I looked at that paragraph and simply stared at the page. What does that say about us as a society, as individuals, about how disposable the staples of the life we once knew have become? In the 1982 movie Best Friends, with Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn, Burt’s character asks her to marry him but she refuses, at first claiming that they are best friends now, and they shouldn’t ruin it with marriage. He explains that anyone can live together, but to be truly a couple, one wants the whole world to know that they are permanently linked. “Marriage makes that statement,” he says. He’s talking about commitment.


Oh, there’s that word again, commitment. In the 24 years that have passed since that film came out, what has happened to that word? Well, we now know that the Department of Labor finds that the average American makes four to six career changes and 12 to 15 job changes in his/her lifetime. Since the majority of families now have both individuals working, that means 30 job changes between them. I don’t know about you, but I find that any job change or routine change in my house brings about a great deal of commotion and adjustment. In fact, it is an oversimplification to say that there is no residual effect on the children in such circumstances, yet often the kids are the least of the parents’ concern because self-satisfaction is the only factor considered. Let’s recall the famous line of wisdom from Bridges of Madison County, where the simple farmer’s wife falls in love with an unattached photographer who asks her to run away with him and abandon her family. Her response makes such sense and rings so true about the commitment one makes in marriage. She says, “Robert, please. You don’t understand, no one does. When a woman makes the choice to marry, to have children, in one way her life begins but in another way it stops. You build a life of details. You become a mother, a wife, and you stop and stay steady so that your children can move. And when they leave, they take your life of details with them. And then you’re expected to move again, only you don’t remember what moves you because no one has asked in so long. Not even yourself.”


Do you see the beauty in that point? Commitment requires sacrifice, and that’s what, in my opinion, very few are willing to do anymore. Sacrifice is noble and an expression of character; then you can be someone your children and your peers look up to. But in modern society, if you commit, you might not be able to do some of the things you want to do. God forbid you give up your weekly golf game or evening out with the girls or football Sunday with the guys. What kind of pleasure can you get out of doing homework with the kids or attending a school play or coaching Little League, when it’s not for you? How about the kind of pleasure a person gets out of making good on his/her promises?

The fact is that not so long ago, marriage was a covenant between you and your mate and God. You three had this little club, and the pact was, “We will do this together, and when one is not strong, the other will pitch in and do more.” That little deal could see you through anything, and many times it was the strength of enduring difficulties that made your marriage and commitment even stronger. Have we all grown so indifferent that we don’t recall hearing the tales of sacrifice from our grandparents, whose love and respect grew for each other year after year because one of them “always found a way to feed the family” or the other one “always made sure we got to church on Sunday” or one of them “always waited to eat until all the children had eaten”?

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