“I will not leave you or forsake you…”- Joshua 1:5.
“‘There’ve been a number of times in my marriage when-if I hadn’t made promises- I’de have quit. I’m sure this is equally true of Hugh; I’m not an easy person to live with.’ I’m quite sure that Hugh and I would never have reached the relationship we have today if we hadn’t made promises. Perhaps we made them youthfully, and blindly, not knowing all that was implied; but the very promises have been a saving grace.”- Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet, 107.
My wife and I have only been married a little over two years, and what we know is limited. What we do know a bit of is the importance of promise and commitment. Within the first six months of our marriage, communication stalled and our words seemed to hit brick walls with each other and bounce back. The basic form of human communication simply broke down, and we realized that what we had signed up for was much harder than we had ever imagined. Our selfishness was brought to the surface, our unwillingness to change and adapt was revealed, and our commitment to our own kingdoms at the expense of God’s kingdom was brought to light. And yet our vows had been spoken. In front of a large group of people we exchanged promises that have made all the difference. We said things like, “till death do us part,” “in sickness and in health,” and “for richer or for poorer.” We had no clue that the promises we were speaking were there for a reason. There really would be times of both spiritual and physical death, times of spiritual and physical sickness, and times of spiritual and physical poverty. We would sin against each other and experience fear and uncertainty together. The promises were made for a reason. It isn’t quite right, though, to say that our promises have built and maintained our marriage. They have strengthened it and bolstered it, for sure, but they are only mirror images and copies, shadows of efficacious promises that form the solid foundation on which Kate and I are built.
God said to us, “I will not leave you or forsake you.” He said, “I am with you always…” These words, these commitments of God to His people, are the efficacious promises on which all faith and salvation, all life itself really, is founded. These promises accomplish within His people all that is needed for life, all which is needed for marriage. Why does my wife stay with me? Because Christ is so working in her that she stays instead of leaves. Why does my wife forgive me? Because the forgiveness and grace of Christ are working in her in such a way that forgiveness and grace are working out of her. Why is Kate patient with me? Because Christ is so patient with her, and that same patience of Christ that flows from Christ is flowing out of her to me. See, Christ and His promises aren’t just the model for our marriage, they are the power, working in us, of our marriage.
Indeed the promises and truths of Jesus are not simply the model for godliness; they are efficacious. They work within us that which they give to us, and they transform us by the power of the Spirit into the image of the Promise Maker. What gives the moon a brilliant glow in the dead of night? The sun. What gives Christians power, beauty, and light in their lives and marriages? It is Christ the Son, shining on and illuminating them with His wondrous, magnificent rays. Earthly promises are but shadows of heavenly ones, heavenly promises that work in us all that they demand from us. It is because Jesus lives that my marriage lives. It is because Jesus is that we are and will continue to be, because Jesus doesn’t give up on us, doesn’t leave us, and never forsakes us.
‘Cause we bear the light of the Son of man
So there’s nothing left to fear
So I’ll walk with you in the shadow lands
Till the shadows disappear
‘Cause He promised not to leave us
And his promises are true
So in the face of this chaos baby,
I can dance with you
So lets go dancing in the minefields
Lets go sailing in the storms
Oh, lets go dancing in the minefields
And kicking down the doors
Oh, lets go dancing in the minefields
And sailing in the storms
Oh, this is harder than we dreamed
But I believe that’s what the promise is for
That’s what the promise is for
– Andrew Peterson, Dancing in the Minefields