I am engaged to be married; I am a new creation through Christ Jesus. If you have ever identified with both these statements at once, you know the odd journey that follows. The engaged life of those who have been transformed by God can be, at times, a chasm that stands between dating and marriage, void of purpose outside of what color palette best goes with the church’s orange carpet. It can seem much more like an extension of dating within a waiting room than a preparation for marriage.
If you have ever had a long layover at an airport lacking any geographical advantage to your destination, then you can relate to the time spent in-between dating and marriage. Flying from Columbus, Ohio, to Denver, Colo., somehow requires an awkward three-hour layover in Atlanta, Ga. In the same way, engagements can seem like time spent out of necessity to get to the destination.
Don’t get me wrong, being engaged can be great. The problem occurs when there is a lack of purpose within the engagement.
In six months, I will be standing next to my fiancée, Libby, before our friends, family and God to commit our lives to each other in marriage. She will be gorgeous, I will be dapper and people will enjoy themselves. At times I imagine our wedding day in a similar way to someone who spends his whole life on earth anticipating heaven.
But what about the time in-between? What about our engagement?
Just as God has purposed us for the in-between of faith, the time between salvation and heaven, he has purposed the time in-between dating and marriage.
Over the past four years Libby and I have spent together, we have seen many friends meet, get engaged and marry. For some it seemed like a race to be first to the altar and for a few others it seemed to be a race for the bed. Some of those marriages are doing well, others are hurting and on their last leg. Libby and I were able to learn a lot from what we saw.
The biggest word we have learned is "patience." Not the kindergartner-patience whose body can’t stop fidgeting thinking about what he wants, but rather our intention is to enjoy whatever stage of our relationship we are in. Outside of the wedding planning we decided to get lost in the present knowing it’s just as much a gift from God as our marriage will be.
So, when we found ourselves in the midst of engaged life, we found purpose outside of counting down the days to walking down the aisle. We decided to take Rick Warren’s advice and have a purpose-driven engagement. (How many of you just went to Amazon?)
When you stand facing each other in front of your family and friends, you’re asked to verbally commit yourself to each other; these words are commonly called vows. The standard vow spoken at weddings is repeated by both the bride and the groom,
I take you, to be my spouse, to have and to hold from
this day forward, for better
or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to
cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.
These words are beautiful. It says no matter what happens, I will be there. But of all the vows spoken in our country, about half of the couples actually live it out. The other half give up, call it quits or don’t live up to the expectations of the vows.
It was in this that I found my purpose for our engagement. The year and a half Libby and I are spending in the awkward chasm known as engagement will be spent living out our vows. I said it to her this way:
“I do these things because I want my actions in our engaged life to be my vows to you. Before our wedding day, before I utter any words, I want these actions to speak so much more loudly as my vows.”
So our lives right now could be going one of two ways: like a kindergartner, fidgeting, counting down the days until the big day or like an engaged couple enjoying the life they have now.
Whether your engagement is six months, 10 months or a year and half, this is the engaged life to me: a time of vows spoken through actions. It’s a time to show how you are going to care for her or him. Anyone can say anything in a vow on the wedding day, but have you and your future spouse already been doing it? Have you both intentionally gone out of your way to selflessly care for each other? The truth is if you or your future spouse aren’t showing those vows now, it won’t start when you say “I do.”
Tom Hagedon is a Next Generation Pastor in Ohio and is engaged to be married to the always radiant Libby Whittaker in March, 2011. He blogs at www.TomHagedon.com.