A few years ago, two dear friends asked me to celebrate their renewal of vows ceremony. I am including part of the homily here. For couples reading this, I hope the piece inspires some of you to look back and notice how you have lived your vows, your love, and your shared lives so far:
Natalie and Rose, it is with joy and appreciation that I am here helping the two of you, dear friends, celebrate your 20 years together as a married couple! This renewal of vows represents not just a promise for the future, but also an acknowledgment of your long history, carrying out the vows and commitments you made to one another then. That is an accomplishment worthy of recognition and praise, and we are here to do just that!
I often say in wedding ceremonies that it is a sacred miracle when two people find one another—their soul-mate—and fall in love and join together in the path that is marriage. And it is every bit as much a sacred miracle to witness two people who have been on this journey for 20 years who have become each other’s best friend, gaining deep understanding of one another.
During your years together, you have learned patience, and that tolerance and understanding are important for a strong marriage. You told me you’ve learned that marriage is never perfection; on the contrary, it’s messy and unpredictable! It’s a constantly growing and evolving relationship of compromise, communication and adjustment. You have this larger purpose that you turn to again and again, which helps you remain steadfast and faithful, facing challenges along with the joys: a union of two people who depend upon one another, look out for each other, and practice the fine art of saying “I’m sorry” and forgiving one another.
I acknowledge also the dark times you have faced; the losses, the grief, the injustices that have confronted you, which sometimes felt impossible to mitigate or redress. There have been times of distance and isolation between you that felt impossible to bridge. And you have lived through treatment by family members that were painful and even cruel. You have experienced loss of jobs and income and the frightening time of not knowing how the bills would get paid. And, of course, there have been health challenges, and you accept that those will be part of your future together where the “in sickness and in health” part of your vows will be truly put to the test. Through all of this your love has sustained and nourished you. Along with, of course, huge doses of courage, humility, patience and your fabulous sense of humor!
I have witnessed the great devotion and dedication you have brought to becoming part of one another’s family. You’ve created a rich, loving community of support and encouragement for your children, grandchildren, and other relatives. Family is not something that people are easily or automatically good at. You two have pursued loving relationships with both your families, and, just as in your marriage, learned to give support and understanding even where there are differences of opinion or attitude (or even politics!).
This brings us back to the original theme of this homily: LOVE. Love is not just an emotion, a concept, a feeling in the heart. Love is a verb; it is action. It is what you choose to do or say, what you create and offer and receive and share. And it needs to go on day after day, year after year, steadily, patiently, faithfully, no matter what comes. And that is what you, Rose and Natalie, have done and do. That is who you are. I thank you and bless you as you renew your vows today.
Rev. Elizabeth River is an ordained Interfaith Minister based in the North Bay. For more information, please visit www.marincoastweddings.com.