When people in our society think of wedding anniversaries, they typically think of gifts. We’ve seen the exhaustive (and exhausting) list of what each anniversary year represents. Year one is paper, year two is cotton, year three is leather, and so on. According to tradition, you should buy your spouse a gift of this particular type on that particular year.
When others think about anniversaries, they immediately think about a romantic getaway. Anniversaries may involve a long-awaited trip with our spouse, but we easily fall into thinking our celebration must look like all the anniversary getaways on Pinterest. We assume that if we do not meet some social-media standard, that our love must be lost or boring.
So what should we think when we think about our anniversaries? How do we celebrate anniversaries as those rescued by grace and captured by Jesus? Are there ways to honor God with annual traditions in our marriage?
In Treasuring God in Our Traditions, Noël Piper names God as the inventor of tradition. In Exodus 12:42, for example, God wants his people to remember all his works, to honor him for what he’s done, and to tell their children and grandchildren what they have witnessed. That particular scene is about the Passover, but how can we apply the same principles to our wedding anniversaries?
1. Wedding anniversaries are about remembering our vows before God.
Pull your vows out from the scrapbook and rehearse them again. Review them one by one with each other, discuss how to remain faithful, and pray for each other. Read them aloud together and pray that God will continue to work these in you. Ephesians 5:22–23 speaks so clearly and powerfully about marriage. Read and pray this section together, and ask God to make it true for each of you.
Look to your wedding party, who vowed to labor alongside your marriage in the gospel, for encouragement and guidance. Check in with the pastor who married you. Laugh and reminisce about the day, and look at pictures that highlight the joy of being made one by God, before God, and for God.
2. Anniversaries are about honoring God for what he’s done.
As you celebrate, remember the gospel of Jesus Christ that ripped you from eternal destruction, into everlasting life (John 5:24). Look past those petty annoyances — how your spouse chews his food, or how she drives, or how he cleans (or doesn’t clean) the house — and see them as your brother or sister in Christ. Remember that he or she has received the same Spirit and the same grace. And remember that God put up, in love, with far more from you, and then suffered for all your sin against him.
Meditate on the past year and how God brought the two of you through. Pray that you will love each other as Christ has loved you. Memorize the glorious and grace-filled vision of love in 1 Corinthians 13 this year. Plead with God day by day for the grace you need in this gospel-portraying partnership.
3. Anniversaries are about telling others about God.
What greater, and more difficult, privilege is there than to present the gospel in the union of marriage? God himself ordained marriage to display the most important relationship of Christ, the bridegroom, with his bride, the church (Ephesians 5:22–33; Revelation 19). Use your anniversary to share the gospel with the world (Ephesians 6:19; John 13:35). Share it in the caption under your anniversary Instagram (1 Corinthians 9:16). Share it in your perfunctory annual anniversary Facebook status update (2 Corinthians 5:20).
On your next wedding anniversary, refuse to get lost in finding the perfect gifts or planning expensive honeymoon do-overs. By all means, buy your spouse a gift or go on a trip with them. But remember that God is the Creator of tradition and made it to help us find him.
As Jonathan Edwards would say, stamp eternity on your eyeballs and see your marriage (and all your anniversaries) through the lens of what God has done and is doing. Let your anniversary be more than gifts and getaways. Let it be about God.