Back in July, Ali and I celebrated our twelve-year wedding anniversary. As part of our celebrations, we looked back at our wedding DVD containing footage of our Wedding Day; silly moments, friends, family and the service itself. As we watched ourselves standing in front of one another and making our wedding vows, I was really struck again by the weight and significance of the vows or promises that we made to one another.
At the time we made them, I did absolutely mean them as much as I possibly could, but now twelve years on, seeing the detailed pathways where those promises have had to be lived out, fought for and stood on is a pretty amazing thing.
In the busy, adrenaline fuelled weeks leading up to our wedding on 23rd July 2011, I started a new job, we chose a flat to rent together after we were married, chose a wedding dress, flowers, and made all the final arrangements for the wedding reception. This busyness, combined with the sheer overwhelming joy at having all of your most precious family and friends all in one room for the first, and possibly last, time in your life makes any wedding service precious beyond belief, and also a strange almost “out of body” experience. Such surreal joy! Which is why, for me, I find great blessing in looking back and remembering, rewatching and chewing on the details of our wedding vows, in the comfort of our own lounge, slippers on, cup of tea in hand, and with a few years of life that have weaved colour and reality onto the bones of those powerful wedding declarations.
One vow line in particular stood out to me as I sat watching our DVD: “All I am I give to you, all that I have I share with you, within the love of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit ”. In the twelve years of life that have followed the first day of declaring this, this has meant twelve years’ worth of I’m sorries – some of which have come easily and some of which have had to be fought for. It’s meant twelve years of trying our best to put the others’ needs before our own. Twelve years of choosing to honour and submit to the other, looking to lift them up and love them. It’s look like a merging and reforming of parental choices and preferences. It’s looked like giving permission to open and stay open with the bits we’d rather keep hidden. All that I am means ALL that I am. The good. The bad. The ugly. ALL can be so very hard at times; painful, vulnerable, raw, messy. Yet ALL is also so very beautiful and precious. Knowing that there is another with whom this “allness” is being reciprocated. The reality is that no marriage is perfect; it is a covenant made between two imperfect people making imperfect promises to one another, but with God in the relationship, the possibility of hope and transformation is huge.
The second part of this vow is so precious: ‘within the love of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’ The ‘all in’ of this vow reflects that ‘all in’ promise that God makes to us, his people. God initiated this ‘allness’. He gave ALL of himself – Philippians 2 says that God ‘emptied’ himself and stepped down into the world He had made to restore the way back to himself. It describes Jesus as this:
6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
And this giving of everything wasn’t when we deserved it, but rather ‘while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). God went all in. ‘All that I am I give to you, He says to us.
And the same ‘all’ that Jesus gave to me, He wants in return. So how do I give my all when in my broken human nature, I don’t do that very well at all? It certainly doesn’t come by a willing of myself, of a mustering, but rather in a daily choice to lay myself down by looking to the cross and to Jesus and asking His Spirit to make my heart wowed and wooed daily. Jesus, the great initiator of ‘all’ wins my all when I look at Him. Not hiding away the bad and ugly bits as if God doesn’t see them anyway, but choosing to bring my sores, my hurts, my ugly pride to Him day after day and say in awe and gratitude “thank you that you love me just like this. And thank you that you love me enough to keep working on me and changing me by your Grace”. It looks like choosing his way over my own, it looks like asking for my life to look more and more like him. It looks like all the things that Ali and I choose for one another, in the choices, in the wrestling, in the laying down of ourselves – it’s all of that and so much more.
ALL that I am is so very much. It can feel weighty and at times impossible, it feels serious – and it is. But my Jesus gave all for me; his life, his rights just so He could have the chance of having my all – and yours. Will you give it to Him?