Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Good News About Marriage

It is wedding season. Almost every time I open my facebook page, I see a bride on my news feed. The constant stream of glowing faces and white gowns has invited me to ponder what it is that excites us so about the story of marriage. "I can't wait to be his bride!" "We're finally getting married!" "I can't wait until it's my turn to walk down the aisle!" These common expressions remind me that marriage is an overarching narrative that we long to be a part of. It's a story-- of great romance, particular love ("she picked me!"), and unending commitment-- that we desperately desire to find ourselves in. And it's a powerful story, because it never seems to become cliche. Have you ever met a bride or groom who doesn't feel special? "So many other people have already had this experience. I'm not unique. It's whatever." I haven't! Usually the sentiment is more, "This is the most mind-bogglingly romantic thing that has ever happened. I am the most beloved and therefore beautiful woman (or man) in the world." 

I should pause here and say that while many a friend has gushed over her or his once-and-future marriage dreams, I've also heard plenty of things like, "Marriage terrifies me," "I'm not going to touch that with a ten-foot-pole until I'm really really certain," and, "I've just seen so many failed marriages that I'm scared to attempt one myself." These feelings are valid and they point to the reality that marriage is a powerful story-- so powerful that when it goes wrong it can burn the human spirit more deeply than almost anything else. 

Our two year wedding anniversary is almost here. That means I've had a meager two years to distance myself from the smells and bells of the wedding day proper and to get a taste of what living in the story of marriage is actually like. I could, of course, gush about how much fun we have together, how romantic our lives are, etc. etc. All of that is true and wonderful. But I think what has made the biggest impact on me thus far in marriage is how the story I'm living in with Michael has actually transformed my understanding of the story I'm living in with Jesus. 

Here's what I mean. Michael is my earthly husband. He made vows before God to "have and to hold...for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, till death do us part." Having watched richer turn to poorer and health turn to sickness in my parents' story, I had an idea of the gravity of the words we were speaking that day. I didn't, however, have a completely realistic idea of the trials our marriage would face in the most mundane moments of life. It's one thing to wax romantic about nursing my husband back to health after a tragic accident, and it's quite another to patiently respond to his petty selfishness about which restaurant we choose or who takes out the trash. That being said, what has most astounded me in marriage thus far has been Michael's faithfulness to do just that-- to love me in the midst of my daily sin. 

I haven't had a major illness yet, and we haven't gone from riches to rags. But my husband's unbreakable, unwavering love and commitment has been put on display in a thousand little moments when I've been moody, depressed, selfish, unfair, and mean. The meaning of our wedding vows has expanded in ways I couldn't anticipate. Marriage has shown me just how profoundly self-centered I am, and it has also shown me how profoundly loved I am. And that, more than anything, has helped me to understand who Jesus really is. 

The Bible says Jesus is my bridegroom; that Jesus is to the church (His people, those who have put their trust in Him) as a bridegroom is to a bride. To be a Christian is to be, in a sense, married to Jesus. It is to have heard Him vow to faithfully love me, to stand beside me, to labor for my good, no matter what. And once again, it's easy for me to wax romantic about that, or to expect that kind of language coming from God. "Well, of course He's faithful and true and all that. He's God!" But having someone (like a husband, for example)-- whose presence in the not-so-saintly moments of every day reveal just what an unworthy "bride" I am-- makes me regularly think, "OK Jesus, I'll understand if you don't want me back this time." Yet He doesn't walk away. My Jesus chooses to stay in relationship with me, the most unlikely and unworthy bride. He stays in the relationship not begrudgingly or out of duty, but tenderly, out of love.

The story I'm living in with Michael has served to reflect-- to point to-- the  deeper Story, that my heart most longs to find itself in. Michael (or any earthly example of love in my life) as I said in a previous post, is a great gift but not an ultimate gift. He is a calling card. 

This is good news for marrieds and singles alike because it reminds us that whether or not we walk the aisle in this life, we are invited to be in of the Story we so long to experience; to be profoundly loved by a Faithful Bridegroom. There is One who pursues us passionately and persistently, who woos us and invites us into life with Him. There is One whose love can transform us from Alone and Lonely to Beloved and Belonging. There is One who offers Himself to us fully and freely in committed relationship. No matter what.

Do you long to know Jesus that way?

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