Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. Genesis 24:67
On December 7, 1941, Kenneth Goesner was a 19-year old seaman in charge of a 40-foot motor launch attached to the USS Raleigh anchored at Pearl Harbor. He had just returned from taking a load of sailors to the pier for a day of relaxation when Japanese planes filled the sky, and then a torpedo fell from a low-flying plane, slicing through the sea towards the USS Raleigh, which took a direct hit. Unlike the hundreds of other ships that were immediately destroyed, the Raleigh was damaged but remained afloat.
Three days later Goesner was able to find his way within the damaged interior of the ship to his duffle bag, and from this he salvaged a tiny box, which held a gold wedding ring, which he gave to his sweetheart, Alice Forster, a few months later.
The ring survived the torpedo attack and their marriage survived more than a few challenges as well. Wow! Talk about a wedding ring with a history!
Question: Where did the practice of exchanging rings come from, anyway? And why bother? In Roman days men bartered for a wife, and as part of the exchange an engagement ring was given to the bride as a kind of down payment or security, indicating to her family that he was committed to the marriage. They further believed that the third finger on the left had a special vein–they called it vena amoris or the vein of love–which was directly connected with the heart. That belief was further established by a line in the 1549 edition of the Book of Common Prayer which designated the left hand as the marriage hand.
Rings were chosen as a symbol of what the relationship was intended to be. Like rings, which are endless circles, God intended that there was to be no end to marriage apart from death, and rings were made of gold which has always been considered to be the purest, most precious of all metals.
In William Shakespeare’s Richard II, there is a passage which reads, “Look, how my ring encompasseth thy finger,/ Even so thy breast encloseth my poor heart;/ Wear both of them, for both of them are thine.”
Frankly, a lot of wedding rings today are being crushed by forces more devastating than the torpedo which threatened the ring in Ken Goesner’s duffle bag on December 7, 1941. That vein of love that the Romans thought flowed from the heart seems to wither and run dry quite often, because many marriages today are not withstanding the stress of daily living.
Why the practice of rings, anyway? As far back as history goes, rings were symbols of commitment. In every ancient culture you will find rings with inscriptions that indicate they were wedding rings. Read Genesis 38 and there you see the practice as Judah gives his seal and staff to Tamar. The old Episcopal marriage ceremony, “With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldy goods I thee endow: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” That’s commitment–the whole works!
Having worked with couples for many years, I have come to the conclusion that most marriages which fail could have survived had couples only been more committed to the marriage, rejecting the thought that an annulment or divorce is an easy way out.
“Till death us do part” is a significantly longer period than the phrase sometimes used today “as long as we both shall agree.”
Studies find that waiting can help you find common ground, cool your temper, refocus on the future and save a marriage. Your wedding ring can survive more than a torpedo.
Resource reading: Genesis 24:61-67
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: The original title of this article was “With This Ring I Thee Wed”