Burn The Ships!

Ship on open water

Commitment – living in covenantal relationship together

The date was April 22, 1519 when the Spanish Explorer, Hernán Cortés, landed on the beaches of present-day Veracruz, Mexico with 11 ships and 500 men. Cortés had been commissioned to explore and secure the interior of Mexico, which was the heart of the Aztec Empire, for colonization by the Spanish.  Upon their arrival, Cortés' men were weary, scared, and outnumbered.   Most probably had hopes of turning back and returning home to their old life. 

As legend has it (and this story is heavy on the legend side), after unloading all his soldiers, equipment, and supplies, Cortés gave the order to burn the ships. Addressing his men before the first battle, it is claimed he said, “You see the boats going up in smoke. That means we cannot leave these shores alive unless we win! We now have no choice—we win, or we perish!”  They won, and the Aztec Empire was destroyed. 

Burning the ships represented much more than a separation from the “safety” of old ways. The same fire that set the ships ablaze allowed Cortés’ men to complete their mission and be a part of something greater than themselves.

When we choose to enter covenantal marriage, our aspirations are to become a part of something greater than ourselves.  Covenant calls for us to “burn our ships,” which means there’s no turning back to old ways and habits.  

Early in my marriage I felt I should be able to enjoy the benefits of marriage while still living like a single person. I was holding on to the ship that represented how I lived as a single man, revealing a Plan B to go back to that ship if things didn’t work out. That ship needed burned for me to understand why no Plan B is allowed in covenantal marriage.  I have to make this marriage work!

We each wrestle with different kinds of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual battles. Growth in our marriages requires finding the root of those struggles—the ships tempting us to sail back—and burn them.  Having a shared purpose for our marriage is good, but it’s not enough. 

Want-to and follow-through are completely different strategies. We must steady ourselves and move forward with resolve, so we win in marriage. Let there be no retreat! "Burning the ships" means we understand the bigness and depth of covenantal marriage and commit ourselves to being in the marriage (my added special emphasis here for husbands), and living without a Plan B.  

How can a couple work to understand and begin living out the bigness and depth of covenantal marriage?  The best way we’ve found is to become intentional in how we do marriage.  Jumping into a small group with other couples to do life together with transparency and accountability is one way to start.  Participating in Re|engage at ALIVE is another great way to move forward with resolve.  Don’t wait another day to begin doing marriage with intentionality and commitment, so you’ll experience the oneness that God promised in Genesis 2:24.


24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Genesis 2:24 

Question:  What ship or ships do you need to burn in order for your marriage to grow?


RELATED POSTS: Four Ways To Create A Strong Marriage 


Inspired by; Julie & Greg Norman – MarriedforaPurpose.com, and Ryan & Selena Frederick – Fiercemarriage.com.