I was poking around the FamilyLife site and saw that they have a section for staying married/commitment. In the first post on the list titled 5 Ways to Keep Your Marriage Covenant, Rainey gets the question of divorce right. He focuses on the fact that divorce is not an option and marriage vows are sacred. Interestingly this is a post he wrote after considering the issue for his daughter’s wedding sixteen years ago.
It is striking how differently he describes teaching his daughter on the topic of marriage than FamilyLife has taught so many other men’s daughters. When it came to his daughter’s wedding he doesn’t describe focusing on fighting for their marriage to ward off mysterious spirits of unhappiness, only fighting against the acceptance of divorce:
Finally, urge others to keep their covenant. In the Christian community we need to band together to fight divorce. We serve a God who has gone on record on this topic: “I hate divorce” (Malachi 2:16). We need to combat divorce in the most positive way—by honoring our covenants and encouraging others to do the same. Together we can become known in our culture as the keepers and protectors of the marriage covenant.
In the article he doesn’t describe teaching his daughter how to give her husband a wakeup call by throwing crazed fits or packing up the car and threatening to break up the family. For a wedding gift he doesn’t tell us he offered them one of FamilyLife’s weekend marriage conferences (perhaps with Sheila Gregoire), what he elsewhere calls marriage insurance:
I have to believe, Bob, this weekend conference really is the finest marriage insurance that you could ever buy to be able to, not guarantee your marriage is going to go the distance, but certainly to equip it to go the distance.
No, he tells us he gave them a plaque with their marriage vows, and an unmistakable message that he expected them to honor those vows:
With Ashley’s wedding coming up, I wondered how we could incorporate the concept of covenant in the ceremony. Then I had an inspiration. We took Ashley and Michael’s wedding vows to a calligrapher who inscribed them on a sheet of pure cotton paper.
During their wedding ceremony, after stating their vows verbally, the couple turned and signed their marriage covenant. There was space at the bottom of the covenant for others to sign, and the pastor asked if anyone in the audience wanted to witness the marriage covenant. By doing so people would pledge to pray for Michael and Ashley and promise to hold them accountable for keeping their covenant. A line formed quickly.
Ashley and Michael’s covenant now hangs in their home, a constant reminder of their promise of fidelity to each other and of the promise of God to guard and sustain their marriage. It also reminds the rest of us to pray for them and hold them accountable to their vows.
Rainey’s gift stressing the permanence of marriage vows to his daughter and son in law was both loving and wise. If only he carried this loving wisdom into his daily ministry, he would be a powerful force protecting millions of children from the divorce meat-grinder. Moreover, if this was the message consistently coming from FamilyLife, Christians would be much more likely to (in his words):
become known in our culture as the keepers and protectors of the marriage covenant.
Moderator’s note: I will remove any comments which are disrespectful of Rainey’s daughter.