Almost every marriage begins with a lie.
This lie is sealed with two simple words—“I do.” Even before these words are exchanged between a nervous man in a rented tuxedo and woman wearing a beautiful white dress she might never fit into again, the deception typically has been going on for months and even years prior to the wedding festivities.
We affectionately call it the “wooing process” where we go to extraordinary lengths to convince our future spouses there is no task too large, and no need too great, when it comes to how we will serve them. Unfortunately, these terms of engagement rarely last beyond the first year, and oftentimes end with the screeching of tires as the returning honeymoon plane lands.
As a society, when it comes to misrepresentation, we have no problem giving a hard time to car salesmen and marketing executives (this one I’m particularly sensitive to, mind you). But we seldom hold our marriage vows to the same level of accountability.
We can excuse our change of enthusiasm as the natural correction of irrational exuberance or the foolishness of youth, but we cannot easily dismiss the promises we made before God.
So what happens? Why does the music fade?
An excellent clue comes from the Bible, where we hear the remarkable circumstances which brought Isaac and Rebekah together.
Isaac, you recall, is the “chosen son” of Abraham, the one God had promised to him, the one he and his wife Sarah impatiently waited for so many decades to arrive. When it came time to find Isaac a wife, Abraham assigned the task to his most wise and trusted employee, Eliezer. He was sent out on a mission to find a bride from the “old country,” the place where Abraham was raised and had family.
As you can imagine, Eliezer feared dropping the ball on this lofty assignment. “How am I going to find the right girl?” So after traveling many miles to get to his destination, he understandably, and commendably, sought divine assistance:
12 Then he prayed, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14 May it be that when I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.” Gen 24:12-14 NIV
In essence, he asked God to identify the woman with the “right stuff.” This would be one who would not only offer to give him a drink, but would provide water for his camels as well. Now, realizing that camels can drink over 30 gallons at a time, and that he had ten camels, this was a major act of generosity. It was a completely selfless act.
It’s important to note that Eliezer could have asked God to indicate the spouse-to-be through other signs:
Let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac:
- When she arrives with the most jewelry.
- When she arrives with the most beautiful face and figure.
- When she arrives with the most innovative way of collecting water.
Instead, he asked she be a person overflowing with kindness.
When we are dating–trying to make the deal–we water each others’ camels all of the time. We love serving each other in amazing, creative and selfless ways.
A vibrant, growing relationship is one where we are watering the camels long after the ink on the contract signs.
This service should not necessarily be in the way we are most equipped, but rather be in areas where our spouses most thirst.
It could mean cooking a meal when you’re tired to the bones, or working a second job to help pay down the debt. It could mean going to the ballet when you really want to go to the ballgame. Or just sitting and listening when you would rather watch TV.
Or it may be even more challenging. It may mean providing respect to a husband who doesn’t deserve it, or loving a wife who sometimes is unlovable. At times it can be uncomfortable, awkward, stressful, maddening, discouraging, tiring and seemingly forced.
The truth is, it’s an impossible task to handle alone throughout a lifetime. Watering that many camels by yourself will grow unbearable. It’s one that will require divine assistance.
The good news is that kind of help is always available. You just need to ask.