Raise your right hand.
Will you faithfully execute the duties of your office to the best of your abilities and in accordance with the laws of this municipality, the state of Massachusetts, and the laws of the land?
If so, say yes.
I’ve said yes three times now. It’s the swearing in part of joining a municipal board – in my case, the Library Board of Trustees. Everyone who takes a public office makes the same promise, even if the words vary from place to place. At reappointment or reelection, these words are said again, and the promise to serve with honesty and integrity renewed.
Some people think it’s a little silly to stand at the town clerk’s counter, right hand raised, and make a vow of service. What could possibly tempt unethical behavior or criminal activity in a three year stint on a public library board? There’s no way to take over the world from such a place, and there’s no one offering big bucks for voting a particular way on library policy. I’m not one of those people.
I know the power of words and I respect the power of promises made. Saying something out loud in front of witnesses has an effect. Will it stop someone bent on personal gain at any cost? Probably not. But it will help the average well-meaning citizen let go of personal opinions and preferred activities if better ways are offered. It’s an ego check – a promise to uphold the good of the many over getting one’s own way.
Vows like this one are plumb lines, keeping the foundations of town departments solid and strong. Imagine what the world would be like if everyone who swore the oath kept the oath…
Lord, help me keep the promises I’ve made. Guide me in my actions, that good many come of them. Amen.
My younger begins his high school sophomore year and is old enough for a learner’s permit and soon the inevitable driver’s license. My husband is driving my older son to his college sophomore year today; two nephews are back on this or that campus, and my newly married niece is starting grad school any day now. Four nieces and a couple of nephews are all in relatively new career positions. There are no children among the generation that follows mine.
Giving children over to their adult lives is one of the blessings of aging. I don’t want my sons or my siblings’ children to stay at home forever frozen in a child’s reality. They aren’t my possessions or extensions of my own life: they are uniquely themselves, with God-given gifts and work of their own. Their eyes will see things mine never will, and their kindness will bless a world that stretches beyond my living years.
Still, it’s an adjustment – a holy privilege that takes me farther down this road of faith and love. I can’t quite see what’s around the corner, but I have faith that God will surprise me when I make the turn. The same goes for the ones whose hands I held until they were ready for me to let go.
Will you by your prayers and witness help this child to grow into the full stature of Christ?
I will, with God’s help.
A friend of mine was married for many years before her husband wanted a divorce.
“Don’t you love me?” my friend asked.
“Sure, but I want a do-over before it’s too late,” he said.
Her take on the whole thing: we may take for granted someone we love, but not someone we cherish. Somewhere along the way, her ex forgot the worth of all the qualities that were unique to her and all the shared experiences that made their life together precious.
It’s been years since we spoke of it, but I haven’t forgotten it. Cherishing is remembering the holy and unique characters that make up a person. It is seeing in that familiar face the infinite mystery of life, even after years of living together. It’s recognizing that life didn’t have to bring me this family and these friends, and being thankful that it did.
In the Name of God, I take you to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.
Two days after we got back from a family wedding, the hectic pace of the last few weeks caught up with me in the form of a virus. Headache, upset stomach, and a low grade fever put my plans on hold. I only did the bare minimum of work, leaving the rest for later. My husband picked up the slack without complaint, getting meals and making sure everyone got where they needed to be. I don’t think either of us thought much about it – that’s just what we do when one of us is sick. It’s part of being family.
My mother and father accepted sickness as part of married life. When one had the flu, the other shopped and cooked; when one had surgery, the other prayed in the waiting room. Through countless colds and viruses, diabetes, and one cancer each, they honored their marriage vows by caring for each other. This they did until they were parted by death.
It isn’t often I think about the “sickness and health” part of my wedding vows. It’s been a given for my husband and me for almost twenty-three years. But this week, I see it for what it is: an ordinary miracle of love and steadfast support. And I am profoundly grateful.
Will all of you witnessing these promises do all in you power to uphold these two in their marriage?
Along with standing as the bride walks down the aisle, this is where the guests at a wedding do more than observe. This vow is made countless times in churches, restaurants, and on beaches every Saturday, but how often do those of us who make this promise give it even a second thought? In the Cleveland Botanical Gardens, at my niece’s wedding, a whole bunch of us were given the chance to take this promise to heart.
Instead of moving right along in the service, the minister had the bride and groom face the gathering of family and friends:
These are the people who will help you grow together. They will be there when you need them, he said. Remember them. They love you.
I don’t think anyone expected such a statement, or the chance to see the bride and groom face to face during the ceremony. We looked into their eyes, accepted the weight of our promise, and the privilege of honoring it. I count it an extraordinary blessing – and considering the number of people who continued to talk about this part of the wedding into the next day, I am only one among many.
Thank you, Grace and Tommy, for the honor of making such a promise. Thank you, Dave, for the blessing of a face-to-face that brought new meaning and strength to this vow.
Something new is coming into the world today. In front of family and friends, two people will come together and promise to live a life in common and to walk through this world together. They promise to celebrate their blessings together, share burdens, and each include the other in their plans, dreams, and griefs. Sometimes the sheer magnitude of these promises gets lost in lace, flowers, champagne, and romantic music – all lovely things, but trivial in comparison. The word marriage doesn’t seem nearly big enough to hold such promises, but I guess it does just as well as any other word.
I offered and received those promises almost twenty-three years ago. Through half a dozen moves, graduate school programs, raising children, and doing our best to serve God and neighbor, I’ve had the blessing of a loving companion. It hasn’t always been easy and we haven’t always been our best or kindest, but it has always been a grace and blessing.
For Grace and Tommy, I wish a wonderful wedding and a love rooted in compassion and humor. I have no idea what adventures are in store for them, but I know they will be uniquely their own. Blessings for the journey!