My post last night about the meaning of a vow provoked a fair amount of reaction fairly quickly. I assume it his a nerve for some folks.
As I often do, I pose questions and open topics on this blog to help me think through them. So, everything I wrote in that post and write in this one is the state of my heart and mind at the moment. I welcome further conversation as it helps me see my own mistakes and misconceptions.
To me, there are two parts to questions about the meaning of ordination vows. The first is fairly simple: Is a vow binding on us for life?
The answer, to me at least, is yes. It is simple, but that does make it easy or even rational. By taking vows we are doing something we actually cannot do. We are binding our future self to the words spoken by our present self. The absurdity of doing such a thing is exactly why Wendell Berry argues that no person is ever actually prepared to get married. We can’t actually enter into such vows with, to use the medical term, informed consent. We do not know what the future will bring, and yet we vow to live in accord with words spoken at a specific time and place.
The more complicated questions have to do with what it means to actually live in fidelity to our vows — especially when the one two whom we make our vow is imperfect or even sinful. Even Jesus, depending on which gospel we read, described terms under which wedding vows were null and void.
Living in fidelity to vows is not simple at all. It is deeply fraught and often confusing. Sometimes our vows come into conflict with each other. In the end, though, I am constrained to believe that the vows I made before God and to my wife bind me in the same ways the vows I read in the Book of Worship will one day bind me. I might fail to fulfill them because I am a frail creature, but I cannot disavow them without rejecting the one to whom they were made.
These are my thoughts and convictions. Some of the comments on my previous post are really worth your attention if this conversation touches a nerve for you.