I usually do not form a strong emotional attachment to love songs. Most of them are a bunch of fluff that has very little to do with what a real, life-long love story looks like. Especially these days. Taylor Swift’s misunderstanding of Romeo & Juliet and One Direction’s insistence that “the way that you flip your hair gets [them] overwhelmed” simply don’t cover the depth of companionship, sacrifice, and effort that go into a life-long love. A few singers do get it. I enjoy Brad Paisley’s “Little Moments”, and Jim Brickman’s and Michael W. Smith’s “Love of my Life” is absolutely gorgeous. In general, though, love songs don’t make me melt.
But there is one song that takes my breath away, that I actually spent the money to buy on iTunes. I first heard Andrew Peterson’s “Dancing in the Minefields” – and really listened to the lyrics all the way through – while in the throes of preparing for our move to Boston. I was near panic mode because the pieces were not falling into place and the move date was mere weeks away. It sounds cliche, but I was driving when the song came on, and I literally had to pull over on the side of the road because I couldn’t drive and cry at the same time.
The song only uses the word “love” once, but it is the most powerfully beautiful image of what marriage looks like. Just the idea of “dancing in the minefields” combines the fear and uncertainty of life with the joyful partnership of love, and then reminds us of the hope and faith in the One who gave his life for us.
I have heard no other song that has acknowledged the struggle in such a beautiful way as this one. Suddenly, it was OK that I was stressed out and terrified. The song didn’t cover the life struggles with platitudes of “love will (somehow) be enough.” It didn’t pretend that everything was easy just because I’m in love. Married life has been harder than I ever dreamed. Do not misinterpret that into thinking the marriage itself is problematic. I am more in love with my husband than I was the day I married him almost seven years ago. But life is not the happily-ever-after of a fairy tale. Those seven years have been filled with struggles, stress, and sacrifice. Career changes, cross-country moves, and car accidents. Sleepless nights, living paycheck to paycheck, hardly daring to even split a five-dollar footlong if it wasn’t in the budget. There have been tears and tensions that I couldn’t begin to imagine the day I walked down the aisle as a 21-year-old bride.
“And we’re dancing in the minefields, We’re sailing in the storm. This is harder than we dreamed, But I believe that’s what the promise is for.”
We attended the wedding of my husband’s college roommate this weekend. He’s a good guy and been a good friend to us over the years, so we were thrilled to celebrate his wedding day with him. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that he and his bride are head-over-heels in love, and even more importantly, they are deeply committed to each other. As they exchanged their traditional vows, promising life-long love and faithfulness to each other, I kept glancing at my husband, remembering the day we said those words to each other.
In contrast, yesterday I watched an episode of a TV show I enjoy in which the two main characters got married, the culmination of a several-seasons long story line. The bride and groom wrote their own vows to each other, allowing them to “speak from the heart.” I’m paraphrasing, but the groom basically said “We’ve spent a long time chasing each other, but now we don’t need to, because we’ve caught each other,” and the bride said “my life is messy and wonderful with you.” It was supposed to be a sweet, moving, emotional scene, and all I could think was that neither one of them actually made any kind of promise to the other! We call them “marriage vows,” so let’s take a look at what the word “vow” actually means. According to Merriam Webster dictionary, a vow is:
A serious promise to do something or to behave in a certain way
The characters in the TV wedding each had anecdotal evidence of their love for each other, but saying “I love you” is not the same as making a promise of life-long fidelity and support. You need love to make that promise, but the love and the promise are not interchangeable. Somehow, our culture has replaced the serious vows of marriage with the emotional fluff of love songs.
During a traditional wedding ceremony like the one I attended this weekend, the bride and groom promise to love, comfort, honor, and keep each other in sickness and in health and, forsaking all others, be husband and wife to each other as long as they both shall live. There is so much power in that promise!
These are the words I spoke to my husband on our wedding day:
I, Christine, in the presence of God and these witnesses, take you, Daniel, to be my 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 death parts us, and I pledge you my faithfulness.
And he made that same promise to me. It is in the security and strength of those promises, not the emotional high of romance, that we are able to dance in life’s minefields. I know my husband loves me, but my confidence rests in his promise and commitment, not his feelings. And it is in our faith in God’s promises that we can find joy and rest in the chaos of life. Romantic love alone is not enough – but if you can admit that, the beauty of marriage can really shine through.
“’Cause we bear the light of the Son of Man,
So there’s nothing left to fear.
So I’ll walk with you in the shadowlands
Till the shadows disappear.
“’Cause he promised not to leave us,
And his promises are true.
So in the face of all this chaos, baby,
I can dance with you.”