It was a beautiful Fourth of July morning and I could see my husband, children, and brother-in-law in the water, although I was a considerable distance away chatting with my sister-in-law and mother-in-law under the cabana on the camper. Suddenly my brother-in-law started running down the dock. I popped up out of my chair to get a better look. He was waving to his Dad who was standing on shore.
"I think they found it!" I exclaimed.
The day before, as everyone played in the water and my brother-in-law wrestled with a tube, he noticed that his wedding band had slipped off. A preliminary search proved unproductive, since the boat traffic had stirred up the mud enough to cause a murkiness that prevented any view of the bottom of the lake. His wife immediately removed her bands and tucked them away in a safe place as everyone breathed a collective moan.
It was decided that early morning was the best time to look again.
After the lake had time to settle.
As soon as breakfast was finished the next day they all headed out to search some more. I don't think that it took an hour. Probably not even half an hour. It was my husband's turn to dive and he started in the designated area. Just as he dove down, he saw the edge sticking up out of the mud. At first he thought that it could not possibly be the ring and almost chose not to pick it up, but he did.
My mother-in-law's eyes filled with tears. She had been praying that it would be found, saying that the replacement ring does not hold the same sentimental value as the one that your beloved places on your hand on your wedding day. She should know. Midway through their 43 year marriage she had to replace her ring because it was wearing out.
Wedding bands were on all of our minds for the rest of the weekend.
Another sister-in-law told me how her husband has a very hands-on sort of job so his band is full of nicks and scrapes. She said that they talked about whether or not he should even wear it to work for safety reasons, but he chooses to wear it anyway. When we went tubing in the afternoon, this same sister realized that she was still wearing her rings and, unwilling to pass them over the water, she came back into the boat and asked me to wear them for her rather than putting them in a cup holder. I clenched my fist the whole time, I was so afraid of losing them!
I could not help but think of the value that such a small thing can hold. The ancient Romans believed that the ring finger had a direct bloodline to the heart. Even though modern science has proven that assumption to be wrong, it still seems to be the case - the wedding ring does have a direct connection to the heart. Maybe not the physical blood-pumping heart, but it is directly linked to the very core of our being. I have often wondered if this passion becomes stronger for those whose marriages have weathered the storms of long-term illness, endured the loss of a child (especially if there is room for each spouse to blame the other for that loss), or who have pieced their marriage back together after an infidelity. In my imagination, it does seem likely that they might even attach more value to this symbol of their now-stronger marriage.
I thought about how I felt when I lost the diamond out of my own wedding ring when I was Christmas shopping a few years ago. Once, my mom's friend lost her diamond in the mall and found it while re-tracing her steps. I was not so lucky. How awful it felt to remove that important bit of hardware and put it in the jewelry box! Looking at replacement rings did not make me feel any better. I will never forget the day that my husband got on his knee and talked to me about how we had been piling up "stones of remembrance" in our relationship and that he had another stone. Seven in fact. God's perfect number. What a beautiful ring he had selected - and what a huge sentiment to go with it.
I thought about my husband's wedding band and how proud I am to have him wear it. He is one of those kind of guys that everyone wants. Not only is he handsome, but he can install a toilet or iron a shirt. He is a great dad. He mows the lawn or washes windows without even a suggestion on my part, and he can produce a four course meal without breaking a sweat. There have been several times in my marriage when I have felt that I must go into "battle" for him, holding up that shiny ring as a banner, hoping it will blind those brazen women (for whom even a wedding band is not always a deterrent) and keep them away! Like the day our hairdresser told me that my husband was so handsome that if she was a few years younger... (She was also married, and I am sure that it was only meant as a compliment, but as a new bride I went home and told my husband to find someone else to cut his hair!)
Even though the rings seem to be the object of value or sentiment, it is what they represent that holds the true value. While we were driving the other day, my husband and I were talking about a family that we barely know and a second marriage that had just taken place in that family the previous day. We speculated as to the cause of the demise of the first marriage since they seem so amicable. It seemed odd to us that a couple could say that they are still friends, but just do not want to live together anymore.
In his book Two Fleas and No Dog, Craig Hill describes the difference between a contract and a covenant. He says that a contract can be broken by either party, releasing the other person from their obligation, but a covenant is permanently binding - - so much so that, even if one person breaks their part of the covenant, the other person is legally obligated to uphold their end of the deal! Unfortunately, marriage in our culture is seen as a contract rather than a covenant (or as Mary Poppins puts it, "...a pie crust promise - easily made and easily broken!")
I thought of the vows spoken at a wedding and how the ring is the symbol of that covenant which is only supposed to be broken by death.
Minister: "The wedding ring is a symbol of eternity. It is an outward sign of an inward and spiritual bond which unites two hearts in endless love. It reminds us of the endless love that God has for us, and the example He set before us to love one another. And now as a token of your love and of your deep desire to be forever united, you may place a ring on the finger of your bride."
Groom and Bride: "This ring I give you, in token and pledge of our constant faith and abiding love. All my worldly goods I thee endow. In sickness and in health, in poverty or in wealth, till death do us part."
But no matter how much each couple means it at the time that they speak it, marriages are constantly crumbling because we cannot do it. We cannot keep all of the promises that we make.
Only God can.
I thought back to a particular Sunday school lesson in a Walk Through the Bible series that my husband facilitated a few years ago.
The teacher explained several different types of covenants that were made in Bible times. He talked about the giving of the shoe (such as in the story of Ruth and Boaz). As long as the other person had your shoe, the covenant could not be broken.
He explained how at other times they would each pour grain or sand into the other's small pouch, stating that as long as they were mixed, the covenant could not be broken (have you every tried to "sort" sand? It's nigh impossible!)
The final type of covenant was the one that meant so much to me.
The teacher described all of the promises that God made to Abraham and told how God made a blood covenant with Abraham. A blood covenant is one in which both parties agree to something so significant that if one of them breaks that covenant the penalty is death. To make this kind of covenant, a sacrifice would be cut in half and both parties would walk between the divided sacrifice before offering it to God and making the covenant permanent. God knew that this covenant was something impossible for Abraham - that is was only up to HIM to keep the covenant, so he put Abraham into a deep sleep and "walked" between the bull all by Himself.
The reason that this resonated with me was the fact that all of the Old Testament - from the first sin and the shedding of blood to make clothing to "cover" that sin - is pointing us to the future sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us!
This covenant with Abraham was a symbol of Christ's one-sided blood covenant with US, with Himself as the sacrifice!
"But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit , whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by His grace we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." Titus 3: 4-7
Marriage is also a symbol of the blood covenant. When we say:
“I take you to be my wife/husband, to live together after the ordinance of God in the holy estate of matrimony. I promise to love, comfort, honor and keep you in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, in sadness and in joy, to cherish and continually bestow upon you my heart’s deepest devotion and, forsaking all others, keep myself only unto you as long as we both shall live.” we are mirroring the promise that Christ made to us when he said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Hebrews 13:5
We may not always be able to keep the vows that we make, but God can!
"For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself... And so, after [Abraham] had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. Hebrews 6:13-15
As much as I value my marriage, I know my own frailties. I know that it is possible for me to utterly fail to keep my promises.
That's is why I am SO glad that my salvation isn't up to me! I cannot be the faithful bride of Christ, yet He continues to hold up His part of the covenant that He made to me. What a wonderful Savior!
Do YOU have this same confidence?
If not, please contact me directly so that I can show you through scripture how to have this kind of relationship with God. mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
photo credit Love and Marriage