Written by: Jonathan Carl Wong (Photo by: Haolun)
The power of a spoken covenant
“I, Jonathan Carl Wong, take you, Melena Wu Si’en to be my wife. To share with you God’s plan for our lives together, united in Christ for His glory.
My promise to you is to love you second — to place God first, over our lives. Because I know that the best way to love you is to love you out of the overflow of the Father’s love. My commitment is to seek His leadership over our lives, and to lead you and our family with love and grace.”
A year ago, I stood face-to-face with Melena and declared these words before God, family, and friends. It was nerve-wrecking, as I understood the power in a spoken covenant. We did not take the wedding vows lightly, as we wanted a vow that would represent how we felt about each other and the commitment that comes with marriage. We also made it a point to keep our vows a secret, until we spoke it into being on the actual day.
As we professed our vows to each other, whilst keeping the nerves and excitement under control, a silence fell upon the church hall. In this moment, as I stared into Melena’s eyes, everything else seemed to fade away. Word by word, our vows started binding our spirits and hearts as one.
In a snapshot, our vows espoused this: “I am going to put God first. It’s a choice to love you and it is a commitment that I am going to make — to journey with you through everything.” As we heard the vows of each other, tears streamed down our cheeks, not because it was a romantic moment, but because we both understood the magnitude of what we had just uttered.
Two months into our marriage, Melena and I had a huge argument over our contrasting communication styles. More importantly, it became evident that we had not trusted each other fully. In a fit of anger, regret percolated through my mind: “Was she really the right person for me? Perhaps there could have been someone better…”
I wrestled with these thoughts for many months, and soon found myself communicating less and less with Melena. I kept things to myself, as I did not want to risk getting into another verbal war.
The anger that simmered within caused me to struggle with my self-esteem, as I seemingly did not receive any validation from her. I was expecting her to change; I was expecting her to understand me more; I was expecting her to love me more. In the throes of insecurity, I simply forgot what it meant to be “committed.”
As I was reading the Bible one day, Psalm 8:4 (NIV) caught my attention, “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” The truth of an all-knowing, majestic God humbling himself for me and thinking about me found its way into my heart. It moved me and convicted me that I really needed Him back in my marriage.
I also got reminded of these words in my vow: “The best way to love you is to love you out of the overflow of the Father’s love.” Before I could love Melena with all of myself, I had to seek God and come to a place of knowing my identity in Christ all over again; I needed His words to wash over my heart all over again.
Before communicating with each other, Melena and I reached an agreement that we needed to instill disciplines in our lives — we had to intentionally engage with God as one couple. We started reading the scriptures and praying together; we also made effort in spending time with each other. Once God was in the centre of the relationship once again, we found it much easier to communicate with each other.
Leading up to our marriage, Melena raised the idea of seeking out spiritual fathers and mothers to speak into our lives. However, the pride in me did not see the need for this — I felt that we were old enough to handle our lives on our own.
I eventually gave in to the idea, however doubts still lingered in my mind. My impression of spiritual parenting only began to change when we met a couple that was honest and open about their personal struggles. We expected them to give us pointers from their years of experience, yet they started by sharing about the issues that they were still working on.
The couple’s boldness and authenticity empowered us to recognise and face our own problems. They helped us to establish the foundation of our relationship, brick by brick, by praying with us and speaking life into our souls. Their care and concern were significant in preparing us for marriage, especially during tough moments. Most importantly, this parenting process has taught me much about humility — I needed to tap into the wisdom and maturity of others in order to improve my relationship.
If you are about to get married, it is definitely exciting to journey in life with someone you love. But even after the words uttered on the wedding day have been long forgotten by everyone in the audience, it is crucial to understand that marriage is all about commitment. It is choosing, again and again, to love each other wholeheartedly.
In order to do this, I needed to lay down my pride; I needed to be truthful about my marriage and be willing to admit to others that I do not have everything under control. I cannot stay true to this covenant by doing it alone — I need God to be in the centre; I need others to come around and support me.