I want to talk about a little something called “obedience” today. When you get engaged, everyone has an opinion about how you should do things—where you should honeymoon, how many people you should invite, where you should have the reception, and, most recently, how you should say your vows.
We were with friends a few weeks ago who are married, so of course they know a few trick of the trade. I was surprised, however, when one of the suggestions was to leave the word “obey” out of our vows. I’m aware that this is the kick these days and I’ve heard in mentioned before, but never at a time in my life when it was something for me to personally consider. Should I leave the word “obey” out of my vows to James? It’s an interesting question, but I am most certain of my answer. No.
No, because I do vow to obey my husband. Shouldn’t we all vow to obey the people that we love and who love us? If I believe that James loves me purely and selflessly, like he does, then I have nothing to fear by obeying him. Now, let’s get something straight—these vows are not about obeying your husband when he tells you to clean the kitchen or stay home with the kids so he can go out with his buddies.
When we vow before God to obey our spouses, we are talking about a much more serious form of obedience. This obedience toward our spouses is about faithfulness, integrity, and trust. If my husband suggests that I behave a certain way or do a certain thing, it is because he loves me, not because he desires to have control over me. And if I love my husband too, and I am certain of his love for me, I know that his direction for me is out of love for me and not control.
Several years ago, I was engaged to my college sweetheart. About 5 months before our wedding, he befriended a young woman and began spending a considerable amount of time with her. We never had rules about spending time with members of the opposite sex because it was never an issue for us. We both had friends of different genders and it was fine. But, this girl was different and I didn’t like her spending time with my fiancé. I asked nicely that they not spend time together, I tried to get to know her, but I still had a nagging feeling. Eventually, I was forced to offer him an ultimatum, and he chose a “friendship” with this girl over our relationship. Trust me, this wasn’t the cause of our breakup, but it was (as my friends like to call it) “the cherry on top.” Not spending time with that young woman at my request would have been obeying me, right? Was I trying to be controlling? No. Was I trying to protect my fiancé and our relationship? Yes.
The obedience that we vow in a marriage is not about control, though I know there are people out there who make it that way. Asking your partner to obey you is two-fold. First, you are asking them to respect you. When I asked my fiancé to stop spending time with another woman, I was asking him to respect my discomfort and put me and our relationship first. Even when you ask your partner to do something for you, by obeying you, they are acknowledging their role in the relationship and respecting what you do for them by doing something in return.
But obedience is also about accountability and expectation. Your partner should have high expectations for you, and they should hold you accountable for your actions. Not so they can control you or harass you, but so that they can celebrate your accomplishments with you and help you to be the most fantastic YOU you can be! When James tells me we’ll go to a movie after I finish a paper for school, he is not patronizing or controlling me. He is helping me to accomplish what I need to do in my life and is then offering to celebrate with me when I’m done! If I obey him, it is not for his gratification, but for the betterment of my own situation. If our expectations for each other come from a place of love, then we are silly NOT to obey each other! Here is this person who has your best intentions at heart telling you how you can be a better version of yourself—obey them!!
Deuteronomy 11:1 says “Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always.” Why does God ask for our obedience? Is it to give Him power over us? I’m pretty sure if God wanted power over us, He would just turn us into puppets and control our lives that way. God asks for obedience because He loves us and wants the best for us. He also knows that, by obeying His commandments, we are capable of having lives that are richly blessed and full of peace! Should it not be exactly the same when we obey those on Earth who love us as dearly as God does? If my husband adores me and wants the best for me, I can know that his commands for me are with my best interest in mind.
It is first by simply loving God in return that we are able to obey Him. Think about how easy it is to do something for someone we love. And what is our reason? Simply, we love them! Where there is mutual love there is, by default, obedience!
On our wedding day, I don’t know if we will exchange traditional vows or write our own, but I will not resist vowing to obey my husband. It is our obedience to each other and to our relationship that, I firmly believe, will only bind us closer and enhance our marriage commitment.