Nailing Our Colors to the Mast

When we stood at an altar in front of our friends and family almost twenty-four years ago and said, “I do,” we had little idea what we were actually committing to. We vowed to stay together under all circumstances, “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health…” For the most part, we all blindly commit to a life with our spouse when we enter into the marriage covenant. But, are we really prepared to stay in when we hit the “worse” parts of the relationship?

It seems that our society views marriage as more of a contractual rather than a covenantal relationship. In a contract, two parties are bound as long as they both keep the terms of the agreement. On the other hand, a covenant is a promise that is kept at all costs, even if the other person does not hold up their end of the bargain. Covenant love is the picture we see in Ephesians, Chapter 2:4-5. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” With full understanding that we were His enemies, and would fail Him over and over, God still sacrificed His Son to cleanse us so we could belong to Him.

When we start out on our journey so excited and in love, how can we know if we’ll be able to keep a promise that says, “I do, even if you don’t?” We can’t. This kind of relationship isn’t based on fluctuating feelings or romantic notions of wedded bliss. It requires supernatural power to choose to stay when our credit is over-extended, or when an accident claims our physical abilities, or when depression adds sixty pounds, or at the worst when my spouse doesn’t keep their promise to remain faithful. We don’t have the strength or resources in and of ourselves to walk out a covenant relationship like that. It’s only in light of the new covenant that Jesus made with us and sealed with His own blood (1 Corinthians 11:25), that we can stay committed to each other for a lifetime. 

Back in the Age of Sail, the naval military had a practice of “nailing their colors to the mast.” When they were at war on the waters ships would only legally fight when their flags were flying. To bring down, or strike the ship’s flag signaled surrender. At times when particularly daunting battles were ahead, a ship’s captain would order that their flag be nailed to the mast. This prevented them from giving up when times got tough and ensured a fight for what they believed in. 

Do we have this same commitment to our marriage? It’s easy to stay committed as we sail off into the sunset of smooth waters. But, are we willing to die to ourselves and “nail our colors to the mast” in the worst times in our marriage? Our prayer is that we would keep connected to our only Hope for remaining in covenant during the worst of times. In Christ, we will have what we need to love each other with an “I do, even if you don’t” kind of promise. 

Enjoying the Adventure,
Daniel & Bonnie

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