“When you make a vow to God, …pay it; for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed.” (Ecclesiastes 5:4)
I once had an interesting experience with Ephesians 5. A couple came to me for marriage counsel. They were in constant conflict. I said, “Well, let’s turn to Ephesians 5.” The wife burst out, “No need! My husband reads it to me every night.” I didn’t ask, I’ll guarantee he didn’t read about husbands loving your wives as Christ loved the church.
So when the student men’s organization asked me to speak to them on marriage relationships. I spoke on partnering. “You talk things over, you seek consensus, you postpone the decision. That’s the way of love”. No more than 5 times in 35 years did I pull rank and say, “Well, honey, someone has to call this shot and I guess I’m the designated player.” Those were not very exciting ideas for budding male chauvinists, but they must have liked it anyway because they invited me to return and repeat it the following year so they could invite their friends to hear it.
Muriel mobilized all her superlative creativity and inexhaustible energy to make my work succeed and, doing that, taught me to do the same for her dreams. And that will tighten any marriage. Married love is a full partnership––Muriel taught me that.
You can tell it wasn’t hard to love that woman. But in 1978 that bright light in my life began to dim. I noticed it while in Florida. She told the same story twice within ten minutes. She was 55 years old. They call that kind of Alzheimer’s “early onset.” One of four over eighty years of age experience Alzheimer’s, but 55? But still Muriel taught me about love. She would speed walk back and forth from our home on campus to my office just to be with me. One night she had bloody feet. When I told our doctor about it, he just paused, with tears in his eyes; “Such love” he commented. Love is companionship. But it takes intentionality.
The sixth thing Muriel taught me about love is that it endures. In America, seven of ten couples in which one spouse gets a terminal illness, split, I’m told. God doesn’t like that. David asked the question about who is God’s companion, who is accepted by him? His answer: “Those who keep their promises no matter how much it may cost” (Psalm 15:4). And what does God abhor? David’s son Solomon tells us: “When you make a vow to God, …pay it; for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed.” (Ecclesiastes 5:4) God loves promise keepers, doesn’t have much use for promise breakers.
It’s a matter of integrity, of commitment. Commitment to God… and to one another. Love feelings may blaze up and die down, but commitment is the bond that holds. Of course, commitment without the warm feelings isn’t much fun!
So, when he looks at your love affair and hears your incessant love talk, he says, “That’s good.” But when he sees you acting out that love in living for the other, sacrificing self-interest if need be, he says, “That’s real good.” When he hears you humbly pleading for forgiveness, he says “That’s so good.” When he sees you partnering––each working hard to advance the goals of the other, he says, “I like that”. When he sees your constant intentional companionship, I believe he says, “That’s good.” And when he sees it holding tight in the tough times, he says, “That’s real good.”