It’s been too long since I added an update to Our Story, especially since about six months ago we did something pretty significant. A little over four years ago, when our marriage basically fell apart and my love’s infidelity came out into the open, we began finding our way down a road to healing and restoration. Pretty early on, Steve wanted to do a vow renewal, but I couldn’t imagine making a new covenant together until I was confident that things had changed.
Well, things have definitely changed! So early in 2020 we decided it was time. We set the date for March 22… and then Covid-19 hit the world. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back a bit.
Why We Needed a New Covenant
On a beautiful spring day in the year 2000, two kids who were pretty in love stood in front of family and friends and made some promises to each other. We promised to love, honor, and cherish each other. We vowed to stand by one another for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer. And we made a covenant before God to forsake all others, being faithful to one another until we were separated by death.
I meant every word, and I honestly think he did too. But good intentions don’t really matter. When the rubber meats the road and life gets tough, if our commitment doesn’t come down to a deeply ingrained fear of the Lord, we’re going to fail!
If our standard of integrity isn’t hinged on the fact that we will stand before God one day and give an account for every single thing we’ve done, including every secret thing, then we’ll eventually indulge our flesh and make compromises. And that’s what happened.
The vows we made that day were broken, which means the covenant was no longer in tact.
In the Bible, when the people of Israel repeatedly chose to betray God and break their promises to Him, we find that it shattered the covenant He had made with them and He divorced them. But He spoke of a day when He would make a new covenant with His people – one built on better promises.
Hebrews 8:6-9 – But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for He is the One who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises. If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it. But when God found fault with the people, He said:
“The day is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors…”
Our covenant was broken, and we too needed better promises. We needed a new covenant, and a vow renewal seemed like a pretty great way to make one.
Why 2020 was the Year for Our Vow Renewal
Like I mentioned earlier, Steve recognized the need for a vow renewal early on. He wanted to do it right away, but to me – at that stage of recovery – it felt more like a splashy grand gesture than anything else. It was hard for me to believe that these new vows would mean any more to him than the first ones did, and I couldn’t bear the thought of more broken promises.
So I told him I wanted to wait. I needed to see change. I had to be able to believe that if we made a new covenant it would last a lifetime. Praise God, he understood. And so we sort of forgot about it, and got busy doing the hard work of recovery and reconciliation.
As time passed, I did see change. BIG change! I saw the man I love fall in love with Jesus. I saw him develop a conscience. I saw him struggle through the shame and regret as he learned to feel the pain he had caused me and our kids as empathy became a part of his life. I saw the chains of addiction broken and him living in sweet freedom! I saw him take one step of faith after another as he began to follow God in obedience. And I saw him learn how to love me.
Every year brought us closer to God and closer together. Then, as 2020 hit, we started to think about our marriage again because it was the year that marked our 20 year anniversary. I suddenly remembered the vow renewal idea, and thought it would be pretty cool to do it in the same year as that monumental anniversary. So, I brought it up to Steve, and with excitement, we started looking at the calendar to pick a date.
The Vow Renewal and Our Ring Story
Now, let me go back again for a bit. Way back in 2015, just a few days after our first “discovery day,” when I found out about an affair (but only one of them) for the first time, my engagement ring broke. I don’t know how or when it happened, but I looked down at my hand and the diamond was gone.
I probably should have been devastated, but I’ll be honest with you. What I felt was more like relief. I had been really struggling with my ring. Every time I saw it on my finger it reminded me of the lies and betrayal and plunged me deeper into my depression and heartache.
So the broken ring felt sort of like a little gift from God. It was almost like He said to me, “I get it Cherith. It represents a lie, and I don’t want you to have to wear it any more than you do.”
Well, one day early in 2019, I was looking at my empty finger, thinking about my broken ring and I said to Steve, “Wouldn’t it be cool if you got a new diamond for my ring and it could be a sort of illustration of our marriage? It was broken, but now it has been rebuilt.”
Well, Steve took that idea and ran with it. He decided that he wanted to have the ring ready for me if we ever did a vow renewal. And that’s exactly what he did! But he added an extra element to the illustration that I just love! He had it remade with a bigger, better diamond. So it may have been broken, and that was a tragedy. But that brokenness gave us the opportunity to remake it – not just into the same thing it was before, but into something better and more beautiful than it ever was before it was broken.
I just LOVE the way God works out the little details – don’t you?
Covid, Questions, and Our Church Body
Like I said before, we originally set the date for our vow renewal for March 22. But as you all know, March of 2020 was a month none of us saw coming! Covid-19 hit the world, and March 22nd was the first Sunday that our state was locked down and we couldn’t have church, which meant no vow renewal.
I was pretty rattled.
I started to ask a lot of questions. I started to worry that there was a bigger meaning to the roadblock. What if I was believing lies again? What if there really wasn’t change, and I was just seeing what I wanted to see? Was God trying to protect me from doing something that would just cause more terrible pain? The end of March and all of April was tough! The world was upside down, and I was freaking out!
God, as always, was so faithful! He used that time to show me everything I needed to see – not just in Steve and in our marriage, but in Him and His care and timing. March wasn’t His plan for our vow renewal. But August was.
As the months ticked by, we discussed a lot of options. But we kept coming back to the fact that we really wanted to do our vow renewal on a Sunday morning in front of our church. You see, way back in the beginning of all this, Steve stood in front of our church body on a Sunday morning and confessed his sin. It was one of the first major steps of obedience he was willing to take and the humility it required was monumental to his personal healing and the restoration of our relationship. Our church has been there beside us every step of the way!
We felt like the perfect way to tie it all up was to make our new covenant in front of that same body of believers who had been there to hear our confession and who had loved us through the healing process. So we waited through the quarantine, and when our church started meeting in person again, we picked a new date. August 16th. And this time, everything came together perfectly.
We hadn’t planned on making a big deal out of it. It wasn’t about a ceremony or a lot of show for us. It was all about the vow renewal, ALL about the new covenant we were making. But, our church surprised us by decorating the sanctuary, buying a cake, and putting together a really nice lunch reception afterward. They made us feel very special and SO loved. I can not stress enough how blessed we are by our little church.
A New Covenant
And that brings us to the actual vow renewal. We’ve put together a little YouTube video with the vows part of the service. It’s a little hard to hear me – I was a bit emotional. But, if you are interested in watching here it is.
I am happy to report that this new covenant we made seems to have been a bit of a turning point for me. Praise God, that is exactly what I was hoping for. I find myself in an entirely different phase of the healing process. I feel safe again. I trust my husband. I almost never find myself second guessing his healing or feeling like I have to analyze to death his behavior to make sure I am not being fooled again. We both feel the freedom to just go about life and close that messy chapter.
I’m not saying we’re fully healed, because… well I’m not sure any of us are ever fully healed this side of eternity. But I definitely feel like we are healed enough that we can move on to a totally new chapter of our lives. It doesn’t feel like we have to be “working on healing” anymore. Instead, we can just work on our relationship like every other married couple has to do if they have any desire to have a good, God honoring marriage. But that work can just be about Steve and Cherith working on Steve and Cherith, and not about the betrayal anymore. It’s a beautiful thing, and we praise God for His mighty and miraculous work!
Hebrews 8:10-13 – “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord:
” I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people… And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”
When God speaks of a “new covenant, it means He has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and will soon disappear.