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On the Side - January 2014

I do. And I will. And I want to do better.
by Carol Shrader

Yesterday, my baby brother got married. My husband and I were honored to stand with the bride and groom as they exchanged vows. My brother was beaming. His bride was radiant. But it was my husband who drew my eye. Just a glance at him, standing there in his tux, transported me back 22 years to another altar, where he was also in a tux, but this time I was the one wearing the wedding gown.

Tonight, as I reflect over yesterday, as I pore over the photos and remember the sweet moments, I had to search out my written copy of our ceremony and read through it, studying our vows and pondering the last 22 years. (I can do this because my extended family left today, and the wedding lull has descended leaving my home quiet…)

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.”  (1 Corinthians 13:1-8a NIV)

Our college campus minister, Ken Watkins, quoted these verses in our ceremony but immediately turned to Wade and I and said, “Anyone who has attempted to be patient and kind, not jealous or boastful, not irritable or resentful knows how very difficult these words are to follow.”

I remember dreamily looking into the eyes of my groom and wondering how hard it could be.

And because Ken knew us, he added that he knew this marriage would be blending idealism (me) and realism (my groom). So he encouraged us that our vows were not just ritualistic promises.

And then this dear minister turned to us and asked first Wade and then me:

“Carol, do you commit yourself to Wade, to be his wife, to seek God’s grace and strength in order to love him as he needs to be loved?

Do you accept him as he is and desire that he will grow as a person becoming all that God made him to be?

Do you pledge to forgive him when he fails to live up to your expectations of him?

Do you covenant to care for Wade in times of sadness and sickness and to celebrate with him in times of joy as long as you both shall live?”

And ya’ll, I didn’t even hesitate. I didn’t even pause. I practically shouted, “I do!”

I bet if I could see your faces, you would be nodding with me. Because the thing is, we all eagerly agreed. We all said, whispered, or nodded our agreement when the minister asked for our commitment to the marriage.

But I don’t always live them. I don’t always live my vows. As a matter of fact, I would wager a guess that I more often dwell on how I think I should be loved than I dwell on loving my man the way he needs to be loved.

And as for forgiving him when he fails to live up to my expectations? I fear I have seasons where instead of exercising forgiveness, I exercise stretching the bar of my expectations higher and higher out of his reach.

I get a little cocky over the vow regarding allowing him to grow to be all God desires him to be. I mean, after all, I married an aerospace engineer at that altar. Surely I get points for loving him through a decision to go to medical school followed by four years of school, five years of residency and one year of fellowship? Right?

Vow number four though knocks me right back down. Do I covenant (pledge, promise, agree) to care for Wade through times of sadness, sickness and celebrate in times of joy? My Dad was diagnosed with cancer a few months into our marriage. Wade stood with me, held me, drove me back and forth to Mississippi for two years during the battle. He lived this vow.

But when our triplets were born prematurely, and our two sons subsequently were diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, I fear I often forgot the “care for Wade” part of the vow. Oh, I am not saying I get it wrong all the time….but I am admitting that I get it wrong a good bit of the time. I get so consumed with all the day-in and day-out things that must be done in caring for them, that I lose sight of anything beyond that. For years, Wade was fearful of the tomorrows for our boys but because I was swamped in the todays I didn’t share those fears. But worse than not sharing, I was angry that he was dwelling in them. Angry.

Ladies, the definition of “care” is to “feel concern, attach importance to, or look after and provide for the needs of.” While anger is defined as “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.”

See, not even close to the same thing.

I failed to live my vows. But I can do better. I am still loved by the one wearing the tux across from me yesterday, and I can love him better.

Can I encourage you as we begin this brand new year, this time of pondering the old and making resolutions for the new, to meet your guy at the altar? Can you carve a time to look into his eyes and reflect on the vows you spoke to each other? It doesn’t have to be fancy – it could be in a call room, a hospital cafeteria, or over your own dinner table – but make time to remember your unique promises to care and protect each other.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13 NIV)

Carol Mason Shrader lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her wonderful groom, Wade, a Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon. Four children (Benjamin, Mason, Claire and Cate.), six states, three dogs and all manner of initials added to his name later, she’d say “I do” all over again in a heartbeat.