“So, I hear you two want to get married?”
Jane and Tony had dated for years. Anyone looking at them could tell they loved each other. They’d just entered Pastor Jason’s office and were taking their seats when he posed his question.
Jane, trying to control her joy, “We sure do!”
Tony added, “And we’d be honored to have you perform the ceremony.”
Pastor Jason looked at them. He clearly was fond of each of them.
“The honor is mine. I require about six months of premarital counseling. Is that an issue?”
Jane answered quickly, “Nope. We haven’t set a date yet.”
The whole setting felt very warm. Tony was curious about the specifics of the counseling.
“Can you give us any information about the counseling? Anything we can do to prepare?”
Pastor Jason thought for a moment. “In the early months, we’ll focus mainly on the idea of commitment, especially as it pertains to marriage.”
Jane responded, “Great. I think you’ll find us easy to work with. Given that we’re so deeply in love.”
Pastor Jason looked completely baffled. “I don’t understand.”
Jane, now herself unsure of what just happened, “Well, just that with how we feel for each other, I think we’ll be an easy couple to counsel.”
“I must’ve been misunderstood. In our counseling together, we won’t discuss your love for each other at all.”
Now Tony looked confused. “But you just said …”
Pastor Jason cut him off, “… that we’d discuss the nature of marriage. That we’d talk about commitment not love.”
Jane quietly spoke, “What’s the difference?”
Pastor Jason smiled, hoping his face didn’t show how naïve he found them, “I’ve no doubt you each have a genuine love for each other. But our counseling will focus on something much more critical to the success of your marriage than feelings. We’ll discuss the commitment you’re stepping into.”
Tony and Jane glanced at each other. Now they both still looked lost. Pastor Jason continued.
“You see, commitment is an act, not a feeling. Actions are often supported by how we feel but the type of commitment needed to keep a marriage strong is one that doesn’t rely solely on feelings.”
Jane respectfully asked, “Why not?”
“Because feelings change. I’m not saying that you’ll ever stop feeling how you do now. But feelings can be tricky things. Passions often change with the various seasons of life. The commitment you’re promising at the altar is not to stay faithful as long as you feel like it. You’re promising to stay true even when you don’t.”
Tony spoke slowly, “I think I understand.”
Pastor Jason smiled. “Jane, let me go out on a limb here. You somewhat like chocolate, yes?”
Everyone knew Jane totally loved chocolate. She’d openly admit, while she loved Tony more, that it was close. She gave a huge smile.
“I think that would be a slight understatement.”
“So, would anyone ever have to ask you to make a commitment to eat chocolate?”
“No way. That’s silly.”
“Exactly! Most of us don’t need a commitment for things we have feelings for. And while you will be filled with feelings on your wedding day, the commitment you’ll actually be making is to stay loyal and true to each other regardless of how you feel. You’ll be promising to safeguard and protect this relationship, and to reject any activity that violates it. And this commitment is a unilateral one. It’s not based on what the other person does.”
Jane and Tony looked at each other, nodded, and smiled. A light bulb started to brighten in their minds. They began to understand.
“I want you both to see the blessing in true commitment and the power the Lord provides to make it possible. In my example, if you decide to stop loving chocolate, who cares? No one is harmed if you then act on that, expect maybe the chocolate industry. However, its huge if you stop feeling like being committed and decide to then act accordingly. I’d hope, in that case, you’d find loving Christians to speak with. But while working through it, you need to remain committed to each other regardless of how you feel.”
Tony paused and then commented, “I think I’m going to like this counseling.”
Jane smiled, “Me too. When do we start?”
Pastor Jason leaned forward and grinned, “We just did.”
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