by Joanie Butman
Forget the royals. The most anticipated wedding event of the decade (at least for my dad) is my parents’ walk down the aisle today. “I can’t believe it’s finally here” he commented yesterday with a huge grin and a twinkle in his eyes. They actually celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in February; however, due to my dad’s worsening dementia, he’s forgotten their original nuptials. He proposes to my mom daily. During my last visit, he gazed at her lovingly and declared his intentions, “Isn’t she beautiful? I’m going to marry her. I’m so happy. I’m the luckiest man alive.” Truth be told, that sentiment defines his feelings toward my mom (and life) as long as I’ve known him. He worships her and has always considered himself blessed.
It was during that visit that I decided to plan a little ceremony to make her an honest woman in his eyes. A priest and old friend agreed to perform the service. Of course, this ritual may need to become a weekly event as my Dad will probably forget in a few days. Nevertheless, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to witness the tail end of their love story circle back to the day it officially began with their marriage vows. I feel incredibly blessed to have parents that modeled a happy marriage and a loving home. I’m doubly blessed to have enjoyed them for longer than most, and to have the honor of walking down the aisle with them – I’m the flower girl!
Years ago when my father, a chronic hypochondriac, was convinced he had “the Alzheimers,” he confessed his deepest fear, and it wasn’t forgetting his wedding. He confided that the only thing that scared him is that one day he would forget about God. Puzzled because he has always been a devout Christian, I responded, “Maybe you will, but He’ll NEVER forget about you!” Our human bodies and minds deteriorate and we may forget our spouse, our children, or even our own name, but God promises, “I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16). That’s a truth we can choose to hold onto regardless of age or infirmity through faith in Christ.
Renewing marriage vows is an excellent idea, with or without dementia, as time tends to breed complacency. The ritual reaffirms our love and dedication to our spouses, which holds more meaning than those original vows before life put them to the test. The passion of youth may fade, but enduring love is richer because it has been strengthened by weathering the storms of life together. Just for the record, my dad’s passion hasn’t faded at 92. My mom’s only hesitation about this exercise is that he’ll want to consummate the marriage!
Christ repeatedly refers to believers as His bride in the Bible, and as such, has made certain vows to us – and paid a steep bride price with His life. Like any earthly union, our bond grows stronger as we face life’s challenges together – as we learn to lean into His promises and reclaim them on a daily basis.
I don’t have Alzheimers, but there are more times than I care to admit when I’ve forgotten God or felt that He has forgotten me. You don't have to be old to feel forgotten. We all experience loneliness - sometimes even in a crowd or in a marriage. It’s at those times we need to cling to Christ’s covenant with us, which He will NEVER forget: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Mathew 28:20). When I’m tempted to feel spiritually forgotten, I choose to pray Christ’s promises back to Him to combat that faulty thinking because feelings aren’t truth. They are fickle and unreliable, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Preparing for today’s ceremony prompted me to consider my original commitment to Christ. Am I choosing to honor that pledge to follow Him by remaining faithful amidst life’s myriad distractions or when I’m suffering? Is my spiritual “I do” evident in the way I choose to live? Do I view the Sabbath as an obligation or an opportunity to renew our ‘marriage vows’ on a much-needed weekly basis? Am I married to the Lord or just dating Him on occasion?
Regrettably, the answer to those questions isn’t always what it should be. Luckily, God’s faithfulness doesn’t depend on mine. It’s my infidelity that creates separation, not His. Regardless, Jesus graciously extends His invitation to the wedding supper of the Lamb to me and anyone who chooses to attend. We are welcomed and clothed in His robe of righteousness, radiant because we are bathed in His love and mercy.
Today’s wedding will be sweet and loving, but the ultimate wedding will be when Christ welcomes me home. That’s the real event I don’t want to miss. How about you? Will you choose to accept His invitation?